Building Amazing Characters from the Blank Page Up - PILOT SESSION

A Master Class

This 10-week workshop is designed to take you from blank page to a fully developed character, ready to enter your story world and wow readers.

We will explore this process together, using discussion, peer feedback, and a live virtual classroom to more fully engage the process than we 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. Through this process, you will bring your characters to life!

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!

Join the pilot semester of Building Amazing Characters from the Blank Page Up for only $99!

When the pilot is over, the cost will go up to $299 with recorded classroom sessions. And you'll have to wait months for another live classroom opportunity.

Enrollment is limited...so don't miss out!


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.

Course Content

Each week, we 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,
  • Come to the classroom on live calls,*
  • Discuss each module with peers in the student forum,
  • Give and receive peer feedback in the student forum,
  • Journal thoughts about storycraft and your growing characters,
  • Watch a film to further our understanding of character arc,
  • Write your living characters into full scenes,
  • Receive a certificate of completion.

*Weekly classroom sessions will be held on Mondays at 4:00 p.m. Central time (UTC -6). They will be recorded and, barring technical difficulties, made available with each module within 24 hours. If we have sufficient numbers and interest, there is the possibility of adding a weekend call for some or all of the semester.

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


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 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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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 in the student forum, to the questions you pose in the classroom, 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 live, semester-long classroom experience…and you don’t have to leave your home. Get the best of the classroom experience—instructor engagement, discussions about the materials, and peer feedback—while entering the classroom when you’re available. And 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 master 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 master class.

Do you find a classroom the most effective way for you to learn?

There's a real charge that comes from shared experience. By working through the materials with a group of peers, you'll benefit from each other's responses to the material. The chance to share your work and comment on others' work is an invaluable training ground for writers at all levels.

This course has a virtual classroom, so you get the best of both online, self-driven learning and a classroom setting. The content is released every week, giving you structure and deadlines. You can meet and work with your peers in the Story Works Fiction forum, available only to students of this course. And, best of all, there will be 9 weekly live calls with your instructor.

Do you appreciate a multi-pronged approach to learning?

In this course, we’ll be working through a textbook full of examples and exercises, written by your instructor, reading a variety of stories and essays, discussing the materials with each other in the forum and on the live calls, practicing each new skill learned with writing assignments, and giving and receiving feedback on peers’ work.

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.

Do you hate deadlines and find them hard to meet?

In this course, it’s necessary to commit to the full 10-week semester and to carve out at least five hours a week to get your work done. Five hours a week is less than 45 minutes each day. (Of course, writing is a creative process we all engage differently, so the actual time you spend each week could be more than five hours.)

If you can’t commit to getting the work done, you shouldn’t take a live class or an online class with a live component. To participate in discussions in the forum and on the live calls each week, you need to be prepared. If you don't want the structure of weekly deadlines, wait until the pilot course is over and take it without the live component.

Your Instructor

Alida Winternheimer
Alida Winternheimer

Alida has been writing her entire life and teaching for over a decade, from high school to graduate level courses, and lots of writing workshops in between. She is the author of the Story Works Guide to Writing Fiction Series, A Stone's Throw, The Skoghall Mystery Series, and numerous short stories. 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.