Spring classes are here!

Man With a Cake: Utility of Foil Characters

Mar 16
Mar 16
1:00 - 4:00PM CT
William Henry Lewis
Online via Zoom
Cancellation & Refund Policy >

In Ray Carver’s classic story, “A Small Good Thing,” the baker leaves persistent voicemail messages to a customer about collecting an unclaimed cake. Throughout this story, Carver teases out the depths of loss and rage of grieving parents whose son who has died before his birthday. When the baker learns how his unknowing calls struck at their loss, he offers them a seat, freshly bread, a stranger’s solace in his empty bakery.

The insertion of the right kind of foil or reflecting character can impact the reader’s take on primary characters and core plot without the writer having to force elements vital to the crafting of the piece. Sometimes, the foil character is the sliver of light that illuminates the unprecedented weight or dramatic impact in a story. Taking a cue from how this “man with a cake” both intensifies and eases tension in one piece, we will look to expand the tools we gain from crafting foil characters, and what moments feel right to refine, amplify, or create new foil/reflecting characters or aspects in a piece.

In this class, we will examine how other writers have used foil/reflecting characters to impact their work, and we will engage in exercises to achieve more effectively-rendered characters that seem minor but have major impact on our work.

The work of William Henry Lewis has appeared in many publications, including The Washington Post, O Magazine, Higher Issues In Education, Colorado Review, New Letters, African-American Review, Blackbird, Callaloo, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, BOMB and SWING. His work has featured in conjunction with exhibitions at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn and the Baltimore Museum of Art, and his stories have been reprinted in several anthologies, domestic and abroad. Hank's work has been honored by the Hurston/Wright Foundation, the American Library Association, Fellowship of Southern Writers, National Endowment for the Arts, Best American Short Stories, and as finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Prize.

He is the author of two books of stories, In the Arms of Our Elders (Carolina Wren Press; three printings), and I Got Somebody in Staunton (HarperCollins; two printings), which was listed among Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2005, and selected as the city of Richmond's Go Read book for 2006.  His work has been praised by David Eggers, Nikki Giovanni, Peter Matthiessen, Marita Golden, Edward P. Jones, and his work has been acclaimed by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, TimeOut, and The Washington Post. The Los Angeles Times Book Review praised his fiction as "beautifully written and carefully crafted," while the Boston Globe noted his work as "moving, but unsentimental, these are stories of hard-won wisdom, potent intelligence, and compassion for the cadence of everyday life, establishing Lewis as a writer to be appreciated and admired."

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