The Writer’s Truth Writing Workshop at OCWW

I’m very excited to be speaking at Off Campus Writer’s Workshop this month. The topic is important to me as a writer. Our own truth underlies our work even if we don’t always realize it. Awareness of it can help us crack open our characters and increase the tension and complications in our plots. We can also use it to move from one to the other: to find the best plot for a intriguing character or the best character for a clever plot. Perhaps best of all, it can give us the key to talking about our book to others in a meaningful way. I’m especially happy to be presenting this topic at OCWW, the oldest continuously running writer’s workshop in the country. I served on the OCWW Board for 15 years. The details are excerpted below, or you can visit the OCWW website.

The Writer’s Truth: Connecting Character, Plot and Thematic Values

Thursday, March 26, 2015, from 9:30 to Noon

Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln, Winnetka (North of Chicago)

Members: $10; nonmembers: $15. All are welcome.

The Writer’s Truth is something that you as a writer believe in your heart to be true. What, at the deepest level, you’re trying to say with your work: your thematic values, not merely “theme.” Awareness of your truth can lead you to the characters and plot that will most profoundly express it. If you begin with character, but have trouble with plot, this will help you to discover the challenges your characters need to face. If you begin with plot, this will help you to create characters in resistance to your truth: characters who need to be tested and either fail or grow. You can use this awareness to begin a new book, intensify a book in progress, or break down stumbling blocks along the way. And at the end, you’ll be able to articulate to others why your book really matters, with a pitch that carries the ring of personal truth.

Ellen is a fiction writer and poet whose work has been published in literary journals and anthologies. She is currently at work on a novel, The Ex-Mom, which made the Finalist Short List in the Faulkner Writing Competition as a novel-in-progress. As a Board member of OCWW for 15 years, she helped to bring programs to hundreds of writers in the Chicago area. Visit Ellen’s new website at and follow her on Twitter @EllenTMcKnight.

Members of OCWW may submit manuscripts in advance for critique by March 19. Please visit the OCWW manuscript submission guidelines for more information, including an email address for submissions.



  1. Ellen, this your blog, as well as the others, is priceless. I’m hoping to attend your OCWW special.


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