Character Intensive: Bring Your Characters to Life on the Page

Curriculum Vitae

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How to bake a book:  Start with a big love of words, add a generous helping of Mary Carroll Moore, mix with leavening from your peers, knead vigorously for twelve weeks, and voila! Your book has risen!
—Eric Utne, founder of Utne Reader

Mary’s online course was an astonishing experience. I am awed by her brilliance, compassion, knowledge, and ability to lead a group. Even as an MFA faculty member, I have learned so much about the outstanding capabilities of online instruction and mentoring in creative writing. I recommend her highly.
—Teresa Cader, award-winning author of the poetry collections History of Hurricanes, The Paper Wasp, and Guests

My life and my book changed when I took my first class with Mary in 2012.  I got excited listening to her in the classroom. She's telling me the formula I need for writing my book, I thought.  The exercises we did helped me figure out the point of my book.  I could've gone in so many directions and the class helped me hone in on what I was trying to say. 

—Elizabeth diGrazia, author of House of Fire

Mary taught me to listen and to sense the movement or stasis of my own words. I learned to step outside myself and see if a section carried me or dragged behind me. At first I wanted to protect the leaden parts because I had poured myself into them. But once I pick-axed and the pace quickened, everything felt lighter and better—my work as well as me.
—Carrie Barron,M.D., co-author of The Creativity Cure

Collaging my novel—one of Mary's many novel ideas!—helped me to excavate themes of my story that were buried deep in my unconscious and to get a clearer picture (literally as well as figuratively) of my protagonist.
—Prill Boyle, author of Defying Gravity: A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women




Watch the
Your Book Starts Here video series


Mary's guidance on structure gave me the practical tools to write my book proposal and, more importantly, a deeper understanding of my book.  She is engaging, encouraging, and really knows her stuff.  I highly recommend her to anyone who needs help putting shape to their ideas.

—Katherine Ozment, author of Grace without God:  The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age (Publisher's Weekly Best Books, 2016)

At the Loft Literary Center, I can always tell which students in my classes have taken Mary Carroll Moore’s class on book-writing. They talk about writing their book in "islands" and using storyboards to figure out how those sections relate to each other. When another student confesses to feeling overwhelmed by the material her memoir might include, they readily advise, “You should try Mary Carroll Moore’s method.” I second that.
—Cheri Register, American Book Award winner and author of Packinghouse Daughter


With storyboards, collages, image-based writing exercises, and charts, Mary Carroll Moore shows writers how to really see their writing in a new way. Her book-structuring method teaches them to zoom out from the detail level of sentences to see the big picture of the entire book. This ability to control focus— from words and sentences, to scenes and chapters, to the wide angle of themes and flow—is crucial. Your Book Starts Here is a valuable resource in developing this skill. —Roseanne Bane, creativity coach and author, Dancing in the Dragon’s Den: Rekindling the Creative Fire in Your Shadow

Need one-on-one help from a knowledgeable author?  Coaching or editing for your manuscript-in- progress? Click here for more information on Mary's coaching for writers:  manuscript review, editing, and personal accountability for your writing.



Mary Carroll Moore


Remote writing workshops--live on Zoom! Sponsored by the Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis


Character Intensive:  Bring Your Characters to Life on the Page

(Saturday, September 24, noon--5:00 p.m. central time)

Audition the most compelling cast for your fiction or memoir, then free them from any conscious or unconscious paralysis (safe, stuck places), via in-class exercises, craft lessons, and sample reading. We'll explore key character-building skills such as longing and desire, external and internal motivation, physical appearance, community, values, secrets, backstory, gestures, and more. (Click on title for more information from Loft website.)


Past Classes—may be offered again!

Your Book Starts Here:  Learn to Storyboard Your Book!

Get to know your book—what it is about, how to structure it, how to finish it! Develop a step-by-step plan (with timelines, storyboards, and more) and learn ways to flow chapters, find holes that need filling, organize research, construct plots. Up-to-date information on agents and publishers, tips on editing your book.

Strange Alchemy:  How Place, People, and Conflict Intertwine in Fiction and Memoir

Good story engages readers because place, people, and conflict are not haphazard. They are aligned to create a certain alchemy. In this class you’ll learn how the three elements of place, people, and conflict must work together to make memoir and fiction writing come alive. Enough dilemma—or too much? Power positions of players working—or not? Does setting lend emotion—or is it flat? 24/7 access to classroom, weekly lessons and exercises, lots of feedback.

Self-Editing Techniques for Fiction and Memoir Writers

Go behind the scenes to see how editors might approach your writing then, using specific tools for each level, apply them to your work-in-progress.


The Art of Voice and Theme in Fiction and Memoir

Every writer craves an authentic voice and strong themes—two key elements that make writing stand out. Both voice and theme reveal emotional truth, linking writer and reader in a personal way. But how does a writer identify her or his unique voice, develop it, and use it to craft themes that matter? Through weekly readings, writing exercises, and feedback, we'll learn the difference between narrative voice and character voice, how themes emerge in a piece of fiction or memoir, ways to thread these themes for greatest impact, and how voice and theme weave together.


Writing Authentic, Amazing Dialogue for Your Fiction and Memoir

Dialogue makes or breaks your fiction and memoir. Although some writers have a natural ear for writing authentic-sounding dialogue, most have to learn the technique: how to translate spoken dialogue (real life) to the page, bring in enough subtext to create tension, find voice and rhythm, and carefully employ tags and interruptions and stage directions. Each week, we'll analyze amazing dialogue by famous writers, then craft or refine our own using modeling techniques, weekly assignments, lively discussion, and constructive feedback from others in the class and Mary. Dialogue isn't easy, but once you learn the rules, develop your ear, and attune to dialogue's rhythms, you can write amazing, authentic dialogue for your fiction or memoir.


Writing Your Life: How to Plan, Write, and Develop Your Memoir

Whether you are trying to write the story of your life for publication or as a family legacy, this class by the author of two memoirs will show you how to organize your stories into a readable, interesting work. You will be introduced to a simple formula that successful authors use to find the central conflict in their story, then plan, organize, and write scenes and chapters around it.

We'll explore essential book-writing techniques such as the value of themes, how action and reflection balance one another in memoir and creative nonfiction, and the author's voice versus the narrative voice. Have on hand a few rough-draft pages from your memoir to work on during the exercises, if you wish, or any notes you have so far.

Story in Progress:  A Workshopping Class for Fiction or Memoir Writers

Intermediate and advanced fiction and memoir writers will gather to serve up their first pages, opening chapter, and random selections of their project, short or long, exposing not-quite-working-yet characters, dialogue, setting, for workshopping and fixing. The goal is to leave you with ah-ha! moments about what to do next and renewed excitement in your writing.

Rule of Three:  Character, Conflict, and Your Story's Container

A fast-paced, hands-on workshop to explore how to refine the three main elements of your fiction or creative nonfiction writing:  the people that populate it, the dilemma they create that drives the story forward, and the container, or setting that encloses it all. Get new perspectives on your work and a toolbox full of techniques for preparing your manuscript for publication.

Writer's Wheel of Ten:  Upgrade Your Craft Skills in Fiction and Memoir

Spend a lively day exploring the ins and outs of ten essential writing tools professional writers never leave home without. Bring new vibrancy to a not-quite-there-yet memoir, short story, or novel. Fun exercises, short readings, discussion will help us see new levels of these basic tools--and how they improve your writing.