What is this school? What do you teach?

Lesson 3

I teach people how to be better writers.

For fiction writers, a lot of this school's techniques fall under the banner of "character-first" writing.

So -- what is "character-first" writing?

It's an approach I developed to help writers simplify their stories, connect with readers, and design more compelling protagonists.

Let me explain. 

I think I was a very annoying classmate in graduate school.

I had an intuition about how to teach and talk about fiction, but I didn't actually know how to express this feeling in words.

So I drew peculiar diagrams for colleagues. I grew frustrated in class when I couldn't explain my point. I submitted rather confusing essays for my literature professors.

And it would be nice to say that I studied very hard, thought a lot, and figured out the answer on my own -- but that's not what happened.

Instead, something happened to me, a piece of good luck that rescued me from this sorry state. When my son was born, I started offering writing coaching and classes online.

Quickly, my students reported that, whatever "it" was that I was trying to present, it worked.

Here's what one writer, Allison Saft, who has since signed a two-book deal with Macmillan, said about my first-ever writing class:

"My story would be something considerably considerably worse-off without Daniel's eye for raising stakes, drawing out themes, and identifying the elements of a story that hold it back. I came away from this course not only with an incredibly detailed novel plan but also the lifelong skills to talk about how and why stories work."

And, as I talked to writer after writer, I finally began to put my teaching approach into words.

It was through conversation with people like you that I understood how to describe "character-first" writing.

Without that interaction and discussion, I would still be confused!

So what is character-first writing?

Essentially, it's the idea that when a reader picks up your manuscript, what they are really looking for is a relationship with a main character.

They are hoping for a bunch of other things, of course (depending on the style and genre of your novel), but that relationship with the protagonist is primary.

And you, as the writer, can use that relationship as a tool to help you tell the story, design the plot, shape your chapters -- even construct your most dramatic passages of dialogue.

Now I offer training in character-first writing in a self-study, video and prompt-based course, as well as a live six-week workshop.