Reading Description: Will be reading from Animal Person.
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Workshop Title: “Who are these people and what is happening to them?” Re-thinking the Relationship Between Character and Plot in Fiction.
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Workshop Description: Character and plot. For many readers and writers, these are the two most important narrative elements in any story.

Some people read and/or write primarily for characters. They feel that a story, at its core, has to be about someone or about a collection of figures. A family saga, for example. Others prefer plot. For them, narrative is what happens, and, in the end, a good story – a mystery for example – is essentially a sequence of unfolding scenes or events. What is a writer to do with this back and forth, chicken and egg kind of problem? 

Rather than trying to quiet these tensions, this workshop instead explores the vital interdependence of plot and character and it asks us to think deeply about the way characters are produced and /or revealed by what happens to them. Using some key exercises and working with examples selected from masterpieces of literature, we will try to reflect on the ways that  these two narrative elements can be strategically combined to produce powerful and memorable scenes. We will also try to branch out a bit to see how good characters and good plotting absolutely require key contributions from the more poetic elements of our writing, such as pacing, tone, rhythm, diction, imagery and sentence structure.

Who are these people and what is happening to them? How does their story “go?” What does it look and sound like? These are just a few of the questions we will try to answer.

About Alexander MacLeod

Alexander MacLeod’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Guardian, and The Globe and Mail. His first collection of short stories, Light Lifting (Biblioasis, 2011), was a finalist for both the Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Book Prize. His most recent work, Animal Person (McClelland & Stewart, 2022), was named a Book of the Year by The New Yorker, The Irish Times, The Globe and Mail, and CBC Books.


We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.