This workshop was already conducted. (Click for upcoming workshops)

Marjan Kamali

The Core of Character: How to Develop Compelling Characters Who Drive the Story

Marjan Kamali, photo by David E. Lawrence
Marjan Kamali, photo by David E. Lawrence
See all 2025 Workshops


Our fictional worlds are only as powerful and believable as the characters who move within them. As F. Scott Fitzgerald has said: “Character is plot, plot is character.” In this workshop we will explore how action, thought, speech, point of view, setting, and subtext are used in character development.

While it’s true that our characters’ decisions drive plot, it’s also true that socioeconomic, geopolitical, and domestic circumstances affect the choices available to our characters. We will delve deep to understand the specific wants, regrets, fears, triumphs, failures, and secrets of our main characters. Through targeted craft lessons, writing exercises, and in-class workshop critiques, we will create compelling characters who live on in our readers’ hearts and minds long after the last page is turned.

This class is suited to novelists as well as short story writers. Each student will have a chance to workshop a short piece (5 – 10 pages total, 12 pt. font, double-spaced) in class; they will be asked to submit this writing in the fall. We will use a student-centered method of verbal critiquing. While there is no required reading before class, during the week we will be reading excerpts from short stories and novels. After each session, the instructor will meet briefly with students whose work was discussed that day.


  • This is an all-levels workshop.
  • Please submit a cover letter that states your interest in this workshop and gives an overview of your prior workshop experience, if any.
  • The cost is $675. If you are selected to participate in the workshop, a deposit of $300 is required to register, with the balance due by September 30.
  • If you are accepted into a workshop and would like to attend some of the Seminar, a space will be available to you at a reduced price of $300 (you will be notified of this option upon acceptance into the program). The Seminar runs from January 12 – 15.
  • Financial Assistance is available to those who would not otherwise be able to attend—click here for guidelines and/or to apply for a Workshop Fellowship Award.
  • Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the class is full.



Marjan Kamali is the award-winning author of The Stationery Shop, a national bestseller, and Together Tea, a Massachusetts Book Award finalist. She is a 2022 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship.

Kamali’s novels have been translated into more than twenty languages, and The Stationery Shop was awarded the Prix Attitude in France. Her essays have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Literary Hub, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

The Stationery Shop is being adapted into a TV series at HBO and Together Tea was adapted for the stage.