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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Creative Writing: The Craft of Character by Wesleyan University

1,804 ratings

About the Course

At the center of a good story are the characters in it. In this course aspiring writers will discover how to build and bring to life complex, vivid and unforgettable characters. We will study the choices a writer makes to bring all characters to life on the page, and we will perform written exercises in order to develop a variety of writing and pre-writing techniques, in order to create a variety of characters. We will learn how to use our own life experiences, and the people we know (and how not to!). We will develop inner (thoughts and feelings) and outer (appearance, habits, behavior) lives for our characters and see how that can lead us to richer and more interesting stories. We will breathe life into our characters and let them surprise us....

Top reviews


Aug 10, 2016

I loved this course! Extremely useful and hands on. The course instructor was really impressive, both informative and empathetic, both arty and to the point. Totally admired her style of instruction.


Sep 25, 2020

The course was very well-structured and challenging. The instructor is very experienced and good, thus used relevant materials for this course, be it the guests, or the assignments, or the examples.

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1 - 25 of 530 Reviews for Creative Writing: The Craft of Character

By John L

Mar 25, 2019

I recently completed the 5-course specialization in creative writing. For the most part the course material presented was good, especially the courses on plot, on setting, and on style. The course on characterization was a little vague. From the syllabus, it looked like it would be a good course, but the instructor did not follow the syllabus and was often very unfocussed in her presentation.

The weakness with this specialization is that all the feedback to the writer is provided by peers in the course. This I found very disappointing. Many of the other students were honestly very poor writers, and as a result, the feedback I received on my assignments was very superficial. In addition, rather than being able to learn from reading the writing of others, I found for the most part that the pieces submitted by others were very lacking.

If you take this course, know that it will provide you some good information about writing fiction, but the feedback you receive on your assignments will not help you learn. You will need to find another peer group of writers to help you with that.

By salima h

Mar 23, 2016

this was my least favorite of the classes - the lectures ere not informative, and far too lofty. The style class, the plot class and the setting class all had detailed, concrete teachings, whereas these lectures were too airy. Most of them consisted of authors chatting with each other. The assignments required real craft however, and it would have been helpful to LEARN those skills in the modules.

For example, one assignment asked us to describe a character in a setting, while they were not actually there - say a divorced nurse in a hospital. Not once in the lectures were we ever taught HOW to do this. We watched a series of author fireside chats, and then people bumbled through the assignment. I really wanted Amy Bloom to just walk over to the board and draw a character and say "this is a woman, she's divorced, she's middle class, she tends to get very angry when things don't go her way" or whatever,and then draw out a list of how her internal states might manifest in the world around her - she throws things, she's disorganized, she writes mean notes in the patient charts.

I wanted her to teach. She seems to think we already know how to do things like imply a characters state of mind through action. I mean, for a beginning writer, its helpful to just make a list of details about a character - where they're from, what they like or don't like, what sort of flaws they might have and so on. We did barely any of this. It was assumed we knew the basics of characterization, but most students did not!

some of the other students frustration and confusion came out in the peer review, which was a bad sign.

By Lidia E E

Jun 3, 2019

Course would be more meaningful if a mentor intermittently commented on a students work.

By Valerie S

Jan 14, 2019

I did not feel like I took anything away from this class, as evidenced by my rambling notes. There was very little actual theory delineated that could be applied in my writing and in the actual assignments. It was just a series of shop talks and read excerpts with very little "teaching." I definitely learned more from the first module in this certification. I would not recommend this professor's class and honestly think Coursera might want to read through some of the forum discussions and see I am not alone.

By Nada D

Aug 7, 2016

Excellent teaching, be aware the meat of this course is in the interviews. If you read and watch them then the assignments are self-explanatory. The discussion boards were however a disappointment.

By Cassandra H

May 24, 2020

The course, while an interesting topic, was very poorly constructed. The "lessons" were weak, the "instructor" rambled in her interviews, and the assignments were vague at best. I had to search the discussion boards to find guidance on how to complete the assignments. The instructions actually given for the assignments were rambling, almost stream-of-consciousness sentences that gave little instruction. The lessons had little to do with actual character development and nothing about how to write a believable character; merely repetitive"insights" from other authors.

At first, I had really looked forward to the class, but once it started I worked fast to get it over with as quickly as possible. I was very disappointed in this course and wish I hadn't wasted my money or time. Please, consider a different instructor and assignments for the future. This was a poor excuse for a class.

By Kathryn A M

Jun 19, 2019

This the best writing course that I have taken. Only drawback is that while I appreciate the positive feedback, it would be helpful to have professional feedback.

By Paul C

Oct 28, 2018

Was really looking forward to this section but felt it was lacking in content.

Too many interviews which were full of quotations and praise for other authors and was left feeling disappointed.

By Dena M

Apr 12, 2017

Amy Blooms assignments were so complicated and obtuse that they were hard to dive into. The lectures didn't particularly hold me , either. Often, what the lecture was titled and what was taught seemed totally unrelated. Could be improved but at least it kept me writing.

By Becca C

May 21, 2020

I am taking the specialization course and compared to the other courses, which are detailed and layed out topic by topic with clear examples and assigments referring back to previous lessons, this course seemed very scattered and abstract. The subject topics were often diverted to something else mid-way through the explanation. It made it very difficult to know if I understood the topics. It almost seemed as if the instructor rushed her videos because sge had something better to do and relies on "shop talk" so much to explain creating a character rather than explaning it concisely herself. Since the assigments are peer reviewed, no one can really tell you if you're wrong because we are all learning for the same videos with the same scattered information. I found some of the assigments frustrating because of the lack of explanation throughout the course.

By Amy M

Apr 28, 2020

While I did gain some expertise from the course I thought the lessons were brief and lacked enough examples. Also, much of the peer feedback I received was unhelpful. Fifty percent of my feedback was, "Good" or "Yes". Without instructor feedback, peer feedback becomes very important. Good/yes were not the answers requested by the feedback questions. Feedback was meant to be a few sentences.

By Margaret E H

Jul 10, 2020

Some of the assignments are a little odd. They need a revisal by the instructor based on student feedback. I suspect the teacher made this course and moved on to other things without checking back on it's success or failure. The teacher is a really great writer, but her teaching and communication style is pretty abstract.

By Nicole F

Nov 25, 2019

The information I need to craft compelling characters. Wouldn't have learned this information just by reading books! Amy is an excellent instructor, and the work is challenging but not unreachable.

By Dev V

Aug 8, 2016

A really thorough course into making characters. I personally think that I have leaped further, in the quality of my writing. Recommend it to anyone willing to spend time to work on their writing.

By Fjola B

Jun 17, 2022

Out of the four base courses in this specialisation, this one is the stickiest and the least structured. If each week has a theme, the instructor doesn't really stick to it, the interviews have interesting insights but don't relate well to the course material that comes with them and the assignments seem out of context and their statements or instructions as ambiguous as possible. The instructor would have done well to take heed of the points made in the other classes about clarity and succintness. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of the assignments being so ill defined, from what I observe, is that the more conscientious and serious learners give up in droves and you will find yourself with fellow "students" who are there just for the certificate and the peer reviewing turns into a joke. Once on the fourth assignment and the bulk of the feedback you see is either "." or "jfgwjrfqe", you start to wonder why you bother.

I meant to finish with the capstone project, but after looking around and realizing the course community has turned into a wasteland of bots and no-gooders who couldn't for their life string together a coherent sentence to offer as feedback during the polishing cycle, I decided to call it quits.

By Joseph S

May 29, 2022

The course itself is fine. The assignments are fun and interesting and the guest speakers bring good knowledge and experience to the craft of creating interesting characters. The reason I am only giving three stars to this course is because of the learning method for these courses. All assignments are peer graded and to pass to the next module requires three peer reviews. This can take as long as a week to complete. The feedback from some peers is extremely weak and unhelpful. Often times the only word of feedback is "yes." Rarely have I received any actual feedback, good or bad.

Many of the writing assignments that I peer reviewed were written by people for whom English is not their first language. I applaud their willingness to take these courses in a non-native language, but it is often difficult to follow their stories and many of them did not even attempt to follow the instructions of the assignment. In addition, it could take as long as a week or more to actually have an available assignment to peer review. There is too much wasted time between assignments and modules in these courses.

By Editha S

Jan 17, 2022

Good writing exercises but the feedback from other students is usually worthless. I don't think they even bother to read much less review the work of others. The assumption seems to be that all students will approve everything so everyone gets a pass and certificate. Most of the exercises that I reviewed had NOTHING to do with the assignment. Also you need an option to skip exercises written in foreign languages. I have no idea how to use a translation program, yet am forced to approve or disapprove of exercises. If the whole point of the course is to give unearned certificates then this doesn't matter. I am really disappointed but will continue with the courses because I find the exercises useful despite the useless feedback.

By MaryLee

Aug 2, 2020

The videos provided some great information, but the assignments often seemed unrelated to the weekly videos. Although I figured I had plenty to learn so I forced myself to do the best I could with the assignments, I often wasn't clear what the assignment was trying to teach me.

By Adam M

Jul 3, 2020

Good course but let down by a lack of required readings and the awful peer review system. Amy Bloom is also often seemingly intentionally ambiguous in her assignment specifications which is extremely frustrating. Nonetheless, there's a lot of valuable information here.

By Riccardo C

Mar 31, 2020

I found the lectures were not providing enough details and practical informations on how to build a credible character. There should be more references to famous novels.

By Wihann S

May 27, 2020

Some of the assignments are really confusing, with non to little actionable steps to take. This course can be way more streamlined. Enjoyed it nonetheless

By Nick T

May 26, 2020

I liked the content, but found the exercises were too complex for a learner.

By Andreas J

Jul 21, 2017

I prefered the Craft of Plot course to this one, and I almost felt like I learned more about creating characters in that one than I did here. I didn't feel like there was a lot of structure to this course, and the majority of the videos are shop talks about things that are somewhat unrelated to the topic of the module. The instructions for the assignments were somewhat difficult to understand too, however I did feel like some learning was acquired by doing them.

By Eleanor L K L

May 21, 2022

I did this as part of the Creative Writing specialization, so I kept going until the end even though it felt very tedious at the time. The videos are pointless and rambling. I don't feel like I learned anything new. I was very disappointed as I enjoyed the first course in the specialization (The Craft of Polt with Brando Skyhorse) so much.

By Amanda Y H

Nov 16, 2017

The instructor did very little teaching and spent much more time interviewing other instructors from different courses. The instruction regarding character development was not very useful compared to the insight provided in the Craft of Plot course. I do not feel I got very much out of this course.