Building Amazing Characters from the Blank Page Up

A Self-Directed Master Course

This self-paced workshop is designed to take you from blank page to a fully developed character, ready to enter your story world and wow readers.

You will explore the character development process using the Story Works Guide to Writing Character textbook, outside readings, exercises found only in this course, and recorded calls with your instructor, Alida, to more fully engage the process than you could with a book alone. Besides development and prewriting work, you will create a protagonist, as well as supporting characters, exploring motivation, agency, character arc, and so much more.

By the end of the course, you will have an inspiring set of writing tools to own and hone as part of your personal creative process every time you sit down to write!


Characters are at the heart of your story. They're why readers read. If you don't write the kind of hero that comes alive on the page and sticks with readers long after they close the book, someone else will.

Get started now!

Course Content

During each module, you will:

  • Read a chapter of the Story Works Guide to Writing Character (ebook included),
  • Do that chapter’s exercises,
  • Explore character through supplemental readings,
  • Do writing assignments not found in the textbook,
  • Watch recorded classroom sessions with a past master class,
  • Journal thoughts about storycraft and your growing characters, and
  • Write your living characters into full scenes.

You will also:

  • Have the opportunity to attend live calls with Alida to ask her questions and deepen your learning experience,
  • Use the comments feature under each module to ask Alida questions and connect with other students in the course,
  • Watch a film to further your understanding of character arc, and
  • Receive a certificate of completion.

Below, you can read an overview of each week's lesson.

Alida's material is clear, concise, and full of applicable-right-now exercises. I learned more about Character in the past 10 weeks then I did in my Creative Writing BA courses. I feel equipped not only to develop amazing characters but gripping arcs and intriguing themes. I will definitely be revisiting these processes over and over as I develop new characters. This course is worth every cent and every second spent in it. Thank you for taking my writing to the next level!

- Kathryn


Discover a detailed method for character development, while honing a set of tools you can incorporate into your creative process and use each time you build a new protagonist!

Course Curriculum

  Week 1: Introduction to Character
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  Week 2: Building a Person
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  Week 3: Nobody's Perfect
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  Week 4: Digging into the Past
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  Week 5: Secret Agent Man
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  Week 6: But...What's My Motivation?
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  Week 7: Supporting Characters Can Save Your Story!
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  Week 8: The Shape of Your Arc...
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  Week 10: Course Review
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I really enjoyed the exercises to get to know my character better and really flesh her out rather than blindly trying to uncover things. It is a methodical way of approaching character that helped alleviate the chaos of some of my wildly, UN-methodical methods. Thank you for such a beneficial class!

- Elizabeth


Who is this course for?

Are you eager to learn more about character development and fiction writing overall?

This course is suitable for writers at all levels. While the textbook is the same for every student, what you bring to the additional readings, discourse, exercises, and your own writing will depend on where you’re at in your study of fiction. You’ll create a personal experience through your ability to apply principles of character development and craft to each lesson, to your conversations with other writers, to the questions you pose in the class comments and on the Story Works Fiction live calls, and, best of all, to the writing you do over the semester!

Do you wish you could take an MFA-level workshop without taking out a student loan?

Now you can study character development in a course built for a semester-long classroom experience…and you don’t have to leave your home. Avoid the high cost of tuition, scheduling another weekly commitment around work and family, driving and parking concerns, and others that accompany traditional learning.

Alida has an MFA and is trained in pedagogy. She has taught in many classrooms over the years, including graduate and undergraduate courses she developed at the University of Minnesota and Hamline University. The Building Amazing Characters class was first devised for a 10-week semester she taught in the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop, and now she’s bringing it to you as an online self-directed class.

What do you mean by "self-directed" course?

This course is designed around a 10-week semester in a live classroom, but not everyone can make the commitment to showing up on time and doing the work every week--and that's okay!

That's why I'm offering this as a self-directed course. You have to take each lesson in order and, of course, do every single assignment to get the most out of the class. That means there's going to be a lot of learning going on, maybe more than your busy life will fit into a single week. So if you want to take 10 days to do a module, or 2 weeks, or need a week off for a family commitment, you got it! You decide the pace of the course.

If you really thrive in a classroom setting and like the rush of a little deadline stress, don't worry. I'll offer this as a Live Master Class again with classroom sessions and a student forum where you can interact with fellow students. Feel free to let me know if you're interested in the Live Master Class.

Even in this self-directed version of the class, you'll have the opportunity to join me on live calls and ask questions. I can't wait to meet you!

Do you appreciate a multi-pronged approach to learning?

In this course, you’ll be working through a textbook full of examples and exercises, written by your instructor, reading a variety of stories and essays, practicing each new skill learned with writing assignments, and using the comments forum and live calls to ask questions.

Who is this course not for?

Are you looking for a blockbuster formula?

You won’t find it here. There is no one magic way to make an unforgettable, franchise-able character. This course involves work. The work of thinking, reading, prewriting, and writing. If that sounds like fun, you’re in the right place. If discovering a detailed process for character development and honing a series of tools you can then modify to become part of your innate creative process each time you build a new protagonist sounds like more work than you’re ready to accept, I encourage you to look elsewhere.

Your Instructor

Alida Winternheimer
Alida Winternheimer
I look forward to guiding this creative inquiry into writing from memory, emotion, and body. I hope you’ll take this journey with me and our fellow writers. It is sure to be as enriching as it is challenging, from both a craft and personal perspective. What better way to embark on an adventure than together?


Alida Winternheimer is an award-winning author and experienced teacher, editor, and writing coach. She’s published numerous short stories, two of which were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Alida is the creator and host of two literary podcasts: Story Works Round Table, conversations about craft; and Story Works Reading Series, a literary journal for your ears. She is the author of the Story Works Guide to Writing Character and the Story Works Guide to Writing Point of View.

Her essay, "The Sun Still Shines on the Worst Day of Your Life" was recently published in Under the Sun and nominated for the Best American Essays anthology.

Every day, Alida helps writers write better through her craft books, the Story Works Fiction online school, free writing tips, and her podcasts. When she's not writing or teaching, you can spot her around Minneapolis on her bike, in her kayak, or being walked by her golden retriever.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
If this is a self-directed course, it starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish. If it is a workshop with a live component, it has a specific start and end date that is posted in the course information. Please check those dates against your availability before enrolling.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.