Power of the Pen, Complete!

You know that feeling when you think you’ve forgotten something but can’t remember what? Yep, I knew something wasn’t quite right last night, but it’s summer, how could I miss nonexistent deadlines? I could forget to finish off a blog post for this week…Still, caught the mistake in time, and was able to finish off this week’s post. Hope you enjoy!

My online summer writing class, The Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Nonfiction, came to a close on July 3rd. I wrote about this class when I outlined my Summer Writing Plans and updated my progress in this blog post. Now that the class is over I wanted to give an overview of what I learned, what I liked and disliked, along with general impressions.

The lecture videos were introduced by the same instructors at the beginning of each of the six weeks. Two or three 15-30 minute videos followed, each with a different author talking about the topic for the week. While I enjoyed the varied points of view and the perspectives of so many writers, sometimes I felt like the lectures were a little disorganized. Some people spoke more directly to the topic of the week than others, and sometimes it was hard to get a cohesive message from the group of videos.

However it was interesting listening about and discussing different aspects of identity. Even something as simple as a name can reveal aspects of a character’s social status, religion, race, ethnicity, and gender, and raises some interesting questions. Did the character choose the name for themselves or was it given to them? Do they like their name? What does their name mean and do they fulfill or reject this meaning?

In some ways, revealing so much about your character through such minor details is an advantage of realistic literature. Non-realistic fantasy and science fiction, with intricate or alien names, might not reveal the same depth of character from the beginning. But there are many parts of identity that must be considered when writing, no matter the genre.

The class also explored how community and setting influence both character identity and story. This was great when considering the creation of characters as well as worldbuilding. I plan to do another post soon about the research I’m doing for my steampunk mystery, and I’ll be taking some of these aspects into consideration.

I was already somewhat familiar with the power of stories to present social issues before I took this class. I was also aware of some of the pitfalls of including such questions in a story. This class reinforced some of this information, but did not include as much new information as I expected. I enjoyed many of the readings however, and both the class and personal experience point towards reading as the primary way to learn the best methods for the inclusion of social issues. The main thing to remember is that there are always multiple sides to any issue, and it is the job of a writer (no matter the genre) to present all sides of the argument. Unless you are writing an essay specifically about the social issue, it is important not to shove information down your readers’ throats.

While I may not have learned as much new information than I expected, my six weeks’ study reinforced many things that I had already become familiar with, and I enjoyed the chance to interact with other writers and receive feedback on some of my work.

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