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by Writing Workshops Staff

6 months ago

Meet the Teaching Artist: Writing Young: Drawing from Personal Experience to craft YA Characters with Alicia Carroll

by Writing Workshops Staff

6 months ago

Meet the Teaching Artist: Writing Young: Drawing from Personal Experience to craft YA Characters with Alicia Carroll

by Writing Workshops Staff

6 months ago

Capturing the raw emotions and dynamic complexities of adolescence is an art form, and few do it as adeptly as Alicia Carroll. With a flourishing career that bridges the worlds of theater and screenwriting, Alicia has made her mark with writing credits on hit shows like BUMPER IN BERLIN (Peacock), THE WATCHFUL EYE (Freeform), ZOEY'S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST (NBC), and Crooked Media's popular comedic live show and podcast, LOVETT OR LEAVE IT. An advocate for consent-aware entertainment, she has shared her insights at TEDxBeaconStreet in Boston, and her works have been celebrated in various prestigious fellowships and labs across film, television, and theater.

Alicia's journey began in theater and news before she ventured into the world of screenwriting, carving out a niche with her distinctive voice and nuanced characters. As a testament to her prowess, her play HORSE PLAY was recently named an O’Neill Theater Center NPC Semifinalist. Beyond her professional achievements, Alicia runs the Substack publication Write Bites, fostering a community where busy artists can cultivate their writing practice.

In her upcoming two-week Zoom intensive, Writing Young: Drawing from Personal Experience to Craft YA Characters, Alicia will guide aspiring writers through the intricate process of creating compelling young characters. This workshop is designed to help participants mine their own youth for flashbulb memories and authentic emotional moments, forming the bedrock of new, vibrant characters. Through a series of exercises and discussions, students will learn how to ground their characters with high stakes and emotionality, without condescension. They'll explore how to adapt these characters to contemporary settings, ensuring they resonate with today's youth.

Join us as Alicia Carroll shares her expertise and passion for YA storytelling, helping writers bring to life the authentic, high-stakes worlds of young characters. This interview delves into her creative process, the importance of personal experience in writing, and her approach to keeping youthful characters true to their time. Whether you're a seasoned writer or just starting, Alicia's insights are sure to inspire and equip you with the tools to craft unforgettable YA narratives.

Hi, Alicia. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

I am a mid-level TV Writer, Playwright and English Language Teacher based in Los Angeles. I'm passionate about youthful storytelling, exploring every genre that interests me, and making everything into a Musical!

What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft?

I love centering my stories on young characters because it means the entire audience has a seat at the table. A 17 year-old doesn't necessarily understand what it is to be a middle-aged divorcee or a 90 year-old matriarch, but the divorcee and the matriarch know how it feels to be 17. It's a period of everyone's lives that is so engrained in us, that it automatically creates a bridge between the audience and the character.

I want to teach this class to help writers create rich and full realized characters whether they are 15 themselves, or 95. Sometimes we just need a bit of guidance to learn how to "keep up with the times" as they say, to make sure contemporary young characters feel just that— contemporary!

Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?

Students can expect to reminisce about their childhoods (whether they were the glory days or not), and do some memory mining with the class to help ground new YA characters. Then we will do some generative writing exercises to put those characters to work to help weave new stories. Whether you are trying to refine characters you've already dreamed up, or generate new character ideas for a new project, this class will be able to help you.

Probably the most illuminating part of the class will be what I am calling the "Time Machine" which is exploring the time period and colloquialisms of the youth in the period of your project. We'll compare slang terms, behaviors, and cultural norms of various generations to help students make their characters fit the time period of their work. They may even pick up a new catchphrase or two!

What was your first literary crush?

Myself. I fancied myself the great American novelist as a child. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. I have since reduced the size of my ego.

If you mean a character I crushed on then I have to admit I was Team Jacob during my Twilight phase.

What are you currently reading?

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton.

How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?

I always have a bank of ideas that I'm marinating on for a long time. Usually I just sit and think and read and research for a while until something clicks for me where a project suddenly feels easy, or inevitable. I look for a click of "Oh! I know how to write this now!" and then I try to get everything down as soon as possible. I think my best work is done in flow state which I get when I'm really jazzed about a project. So it really is mood dependent, but I think that's okay. As long as I'm writing and working towards creating something fun and enjoyable, the end result usually reflects that. It's when I try to force it that things end up disappointing.

Where do you find inspiration?

Honestly, I get my ideas when something is deeply frustrating to me. A question I have, a concept that I don't fully understand, a hypothetical scenario I want to explore, a social issue. If it's something I can't stop thinking about, I write my way out of it.

Or other works of art. Music, dance, theater, books, foreign films. I'm constantly listening to something and sometimes a single lyric can give me enough creative juice to pull an all-nighter writing a new play. I think creativity begets creativity, so I try to surround myself with it however I can. Creative work, creative people. That's all I need!

What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?

"You don't have to be everyone's favorite, you have to be someone's favorite. Ideally that person is you."

Rejection is a reality of this business and it's hard not to internalize criticism early on when you're still adjusting to your craft and figuring out your strengths. I got feedback on a script years ago that really sent me into a spiral and someone reminded me that my work just may not be that person's vibe. And that's okay! He doesn't have to like your script or watch your show if it gets made. Who cares if one person doesn't like it? Someone else will! But first and foremost, you have to be confident in your work. If you believe in your work, then small rejections and petty critiques won't phase you one bit.

What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?

I'm a big character girlie, so I love to recommend 45 Master Characters, Revised Edition: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.

Even if you don't tend to write in the Mythic/Fantasy space or Hero's Journey stories, the character archetypes are laid out in a way that is so helpful. The book helps you pick apart the skills and flaws of every archetype, what other types of characters are useful to pair this person with on their journey, even potential antagonist combinations!

This book is basically a character bible. I like to read through it when I'm populating the worlds of my stories to build an ensemble that is robust and grounded.

Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?

Energetic and perhaps overly passionate. I compare things to sandwiches a lot.

Work with Alicia:

You can learn more about Alicia's upcoming class, Writing Young: Drawing from Personal Experience to craft YA Characters 2-Week Zoom Intensive, and sign up if interested. We'd love to have you with us!

Instructor Alicia Carroll is a screenwriter and playwright based in NY and LA. She got her start in theater and news before moving to screenwriting. Previous writing credits include BUMPER IN BERLIN (Peacock), THE WATCHFUL EYE (Freeform), ZOEY'S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST (NBC), and Crooked Media's comedic live show and podcast, LOVETT OR LEAVE IT. As an advocate for consent-aware entertainment, Alicia spoke at TEDxBeaconStreet in Boston. She has also participated in fellowships and labs across mediums in film, television, and theater, including Film Independent: Project Involve, Women In Film: Insight, IAMA Theatre's Emerging Playwrights Lab, The Workshop Theater’s Rewrite Intensive, and Ensemble Studio Theater LA’s Ignite Lab. Her play HORSE PLAY was recently named an O’Neill Theater Center NPC Semifinalist. She also runs the Substack publication Write Bites, which is a community for busy artists to develop a writing practice. Alicia is an Emerson College graduate.



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