Who Do You Think They Are? Getting Into Character (Five Days)

Improving | Fiction
The success of a novel depends on insightful, considered and compelling characterisation. For a fictional character to appear real, they need to have convincing inner lives. They should have a traceable emotional history which makes sense of their needs, desires, ambitions, fears, secrets, contradictions and vulnerabilities. They must stand up to close analysis.

Psychoanalysis is essentially the study of personal development, the exploration of what makes us who we are. It offers a wealth of developmental narratives – a variety of frameworks or perspectives through which we can understand the story of how character is formed. The aim of this course is to equip you with some of these basic psychoanalytic theories, the tools that you need to start delving into your characters’ inner worlds. From the moment that you introduce your characters to the group, I’ll be treating them as real people and encouraging you to question them deeply: why do they do what they do? What motivates them? How have they become who they are?

'Profoundly useful and interesting... an absolutely fascinating and thought-provoking week.'
Nick, January 2019

Over the course of a week, we’ll consider the story of human development from infancy to old age. We will touch on the major milestones, the points of crisis, the ways in which ‘healthy’ development can be interrupted, diverted or even arrested. We will also look at some literary examples to help us understand how the enrichment of a character’s inner world can enhance and inform a novel.

By the end of day five, you should have the inside story for at least one of your main characters: a coherent and meaningful narrative that will bring your character to life.

20th - 24th July 2020

Availability: In stock

14 Places

This course runs for five days, 10am–4pm each day, comprising a morning session of teaching, discussion and exercises running 10–1.30pm, and quiet afternoon writing time from 2–4pm.


Introduction – meet the characters.

Beginnings – the maternal environment (Winnicott), early infancy.

Attachment theory

Separation and loss: the secure base

Writing exercise: your character’s mother writes a letter while pregnant


Family systems, family scripts

Trans-generational trauma

The roles that we play – projection

Projective identification – what we carry for each other.

Writing exercise: ‘So there’s this family story about me that they always tell…’


Guest tutor


Who do we love and why do we love them?

Transference, repetition compulsion.

The core complex and distance regulation – too near, too far.

Hinshelwood’s ‘point of maximum pain’

Sexuality (and perversions)

Writing exercise: Your character goes on Tinder.


Villains and psychopaths – what happens when it all goes wrong?

Trauma and abuse

Loss, mourning and melancholia

Mortality: facing the end

Character session: one character will volunteer to be given an interactive ‘therapy session’

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Arabel is an accredited and experienced psychotherapist who works both privately and within the NHS. Before training as a therapist, she worked in ...



Come to one of the world's great literary cities and study creative writing at Faber Academy's home in historic Bloomsbury. Our London courses take place at Faber and Faber's offices.

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