Emotional Truth

Emotional Truth:

Making Character Emotions Real,
Powerful, and Immediate to Readers

January 4 – February 1, 2023

Deadline: November 21, 2022


Scott H. Andrews


Intermediate to Advanced

Live Class:

7 pm-9 pm EST
Wed., Jan. 4
Wed., Jan 18
Wed., Feb. 1



Course Description

A hobbit is unable to drop a ring into molten lava. A “fireman” whose job is to burn books watches a woman step into the fire to die with them. A writer’s wife discovers that the manuscript her husband has been working on all winter repeats a single line. A lord confesses to a crime to save himself and his family, only to find he has saved no one.

Feel anything? Not yet, because these situations are missing one key element: the emotions of the character.

Reading a great story is, above all, an emotional experience. The characters’ emotions draw us in—powerful, immediate, real. We may feel a bond to the character, the character’s emotions resonating inside of us. Or we may feel an aversion to the character, the character’s emotions generating an opposing reaction inside us.

Line by line, moment by moment, scene by scene, a great story conveys those emotions, creating an authentic and evocative experience.

This course will delve into different techniques to convey character emotions realistically and powerfully on the page, strategies for developing situations and stories with strong potential for emotional resonance, and methods to execute those approaches to make your readers actually feel those emotions.

We’ll study

*The connection between character motivation and character emotion
*Different types of storytelling emotions
*Common pitfalls in conveying character emotion
*Sentence-level and paragraph-level techniques to portray emotion authentically, originally, and evocatively
*Techniques for point-of-view characters and for non-point-of-view characters
*Scene-level techniques to portray arcs of emotions
*How to dig deep into your own emotional reservoir
*How to handle multiple emotions, conflicting emotions, and complex emotions
*Making your character’s emotions and the emotional core of your story resonate with your readers

Students will analyze examples, practice techniques, and write or revise scenes.

Students must be ready to hear about the weaknesses in their writing and to work to strengthen them. Students must also be ready to give feedback to their classmates that is both truthful and helpful.

Our goal as a class is to provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing environment that will help students improve their writing.

Each student will have a private meeting with Scott.

The course is intended for writers of fantastic fiction, an umbrella term encompassing fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, and anything in between. Yet character emotion is important in all fiction writing, so fiction writers who focus on other genres could profit from this class and would be welcome. The course will cover issues relevant in middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction.

The course will be most valuable for intermediate or advanced students, since it will assume students already understand the basics of fiction writing.


Students will have some homework assigned before the first meeting, and will also be assigned homework during the course.

The first assignment will have a due date of January 3, the day before our initial meeting.

Homework will be assigned on January 4 and 18, with due dates, respectively, of January 10 and 24. You will also be required to provide critiques of some of your classmates’ work, which will be due on January 17 and 31. Any student who misses a deadline may be expelled from the class and will receive no refund.

All assignments should be properly formatted and should be submitted as MS Word files (NO .docx FILES) or rich text files.

You should reserve a minimum of 5 hours each week to complete homework.

Assignments will include reading and analyzing assigned texts, critiquing, performing exercises to practice techniques, writing new material, analyzing your previously written material, and revising previously written material. Students will also be required to reply to online discussion questions during the course.

The instructor will return students’ homework with his feedback by the day before the next class session.

Students are expected to follow guidelines about assignments and class materials established in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook


Since we will have only 3 class meetings, attendance at every class is necessary for students to get the most out of this course.

You are expected to attend all classes, except in cases of emergency. In such cases, you should notify the instructor.

Classes will be recorded and made available to students for a limited time. On rare occasions, students’ computers do not allow them to access the recordings, so we cannot promise that this will work for you.

Any student who misses more than one class may be expelled from the course and will receive no refund.

It is your responsibility to find out what happened in any classes you missed and to complete homework by the deadlines.

Students are expected to follow the policies about attendance and behavior set out in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook


Students will be required to complete several readings before the course begins. Additional readings may be required after the course begins.

Technical Requirements:

Technical requirements for all Odyssey Online Classes are covered on the Online Classes page.

Tentative Schedule:

January 3:     Pre-class assignment is due.

January 4:     First class meeting. Introduction and orientation. General concepts on character emotion, sentence-level techniques for portraying, avoiding common pitfalls and making character emotion feel authentic and evocative. Assignment of homework.

January 10:   Assignment 1 is due.

January 17:   Critiques are due. Assignment 1 is returned with Scott’s feedback.

January 18:   Second class meeting. Discussion of homework. Types of character emotions, schemes for conveying them, creating concepts and situations with strong potential for emotional resonance. Student questions. Assignment of homework.

January 24:   Assignment 2 is due.

January 29:   Seven students will have private meetings with Scott between 7:00-9:20 PM EST.

January 31:   Critiques are due. Assignment 2 is returned with Scott’s feedback.  Seven students will have private meetings with Scott between 7:00-9:20 PM EST.

February 1:   Third class meeting. Discussion of homework. Portraying complex emotions, leveraging reader expectations, using character emotions to make every page a gripping read. Student questions. How to continue your progress.

Scott H. Andrews

Instructor: Scott H. Andrews

Scott H. Andrews lives in Virginia with his wife, two cats, twelve guitars, a dozen overflowing bookcases, and hundreds of beer bottles from all over the world. He writes, teaches college chemistry, and is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the nine-time Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award-winning online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Scott is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop; his literary short fiction has won a $1000 prize from the Briar Cliff Review, and his genre short fiction has appeared in Space & TimeCrossed Genres, and Ann VanderMeer’s Weird Tales.

Scott has taught writing at the Odyssey Workshop, Writefest, and online for Odyssey Online Classes, Clarion West, and Cat Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. He has lectured on short fiction, secondary-world fantasy, editing, magazine publishing, audio podcasting, and beer on dozens of convention panels at multiple Worldcons, World Fantasy conventions, and regional conventions in the Northeast and Midwest. He is an eight-time finalist and 2019 winner of the World Fantasy Award, and he celebrates International Stout Day at least once a year.

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