Creating Character

Course summary

  • Sat 28 Jul 2018 to Sat 04 Aug 2018
  • Oxford
  • Course fees vary depending on accommodation – please see ‘Fees’, below.
  • 10 CATS points
  • Course code O17I402CAR
  • +44 (0) 1865 270396
  • Course Full

Creating Character


Most stories, films and plays have characters. Writers often feel most comfortable creating characters based on people they know but what about those figures that are more distant from everyday experience and yet who may demand a place in a story? And what about the possibility that there may be no such thing as character? This writing workshop explores different ways of approaching and building rounded, interesting, recognizable but not cliché-ridden characters. The course is intensely practical and will be taught through class exercises and discussion. We shall work in several different literary forms.

Programme details

Session One:
Introduction to topic - It is impossible to give a precise plan for the week as the course is intended to work by surprise and also to unfold interactively according to the particular needs  of the group. What follows is an indication.

Session Two:
Information and character

Session Three:
Why and how characters reveal themselves

Session Four:
Odd people in odd places

Session Five:
Writers on character and published extracts

Session Six:
Strange meetings

Session Seven:
Working on a character – strategies and techniques

Session Eight:
Do characters exist?

Session Nine:
Observation and the creation of character

Session Ten:
Balance and interplay in a book or play

Session Eleven:

Session Twelve:
Opening up the subject further


Recommended reading

These are merely suggestions – we’ll work with xeroxes in class.  Whatever you are reading in the months leading up to the course: think character.                            

Becket, S.  Happy Days.  Faber.

Dickens, C.  Bleak House.  Penguin.

Any genre fiction.        

A good factual biography

Note from Tutor: The above books are for background reading only - it is not necessary to bring them to class.


Concessionary Fee (No Accomm., inc. Tuition, Lunch & Dinner): £680.00
Programme Fee (No Accommodation - inc. Tuition, Lunch & Dinner): £790.00
Programme Fee (Standard Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals): £1375.00
Programme Fee (Standard Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals): £1155.00
Programme Fee (Superior Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals): £1480.00
Programme Fee (Superior Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals): £1245.00

Course fees vary depending on accommodation – please see ‘Fees’, below.


Dr Jonathan Miles


Jonathan’s Wreck of the Medusa – currently under movie option - is a voyage through the artistic and political clashes of Restoration France. The NY Times called it ‘entrallingly recounted … the narrative brilliantly meted out’. Jonathan’s Nine Lives of Otto Katz was hailed by the LA Times ‘as unique among accounts of’ the Soviet spy world. The press has greeted St. Petersburg – Three Centuries of Murderous Desire, with unbounded enthusiasm. A Times Book of Year, it was called ‘extraordinary … brutally vivid’. Translated into several languages, Jonathan has also taught on OUSSA for 30 years.


Course aims

The object of the course is to explore different approaches to the creation of character and thereby develop writing skills.

Course Objectives

This course will enable students to:

  • Tune their creative instruments
  • Improve their facility with language
  • Sharpen their critical responses to texts

Teaching methods

All summer school courses are taught through group seminars and individual tutorials. Students also conduct private study when not in class and there is a well stocked library at OUDCE to support individual research needs.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

  • More about creating character
  • More about self-editing
  • More about different approaches to writing

And students will be expected to have gained and/or developed the following skills:

  • Increased facility with language
  • Sharpened their creative skills
  • A more flexible approach to writing

Assessment methods

Students are assessed during the summer school by either a 1500 word written assignment or a presentation supported by individual documentation. To successfully gain credit (10 CATS points) students should attend all classes and complete the on-course assignment. There is also a pre-course assignment of 1000 words set. Although this does not count towards credit, it is seen as an important way of developing a student's ideas and therefore its completion is mandatory.


To enrol online, click 'Book Now', above.  To enrol by post, please see details of the application process.