Last night I took a writing workshop at Boston’s Grub Street writing center, titled Criminals and Outlaws in Fiction and Memoir. The workshop was taught by author, Deni Bechard, who wrote a memoir about his dad, a bank robber for over a decade.
I felt like I got a lot of the 3-hour session, and that Deni gave us many good questions to ask ourselves to, as he says, “get under the skin of our characters so that in the end there is no bad or good guy.” For example: What is the societal/cultural context in which the character grew up? What are his worst traits? How did he get these traits? What are his redeeming qualities? Pick someone who is the polar opposite of this character. How does he see your character from this opposite side?
I know all of the rich material that Deni provided and discussed with us will help me bring more depth to the outsider characters in my writing. After all, as Deni says in his course description about criminal and outlaw figures in American literature, …individuals who embody recklessness, lust, greed, and cruelty often seem the most authentic.