The Human Perception Manual with Sam Westcott

Perception is reality—for us and the characters we create. Learn how to better understand your own perception and harness it to create richer characters and more complex stories in this 2-week class.

Your Instructor: Sam Westcott (author and writing coach)

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: March 29, 2022 - April 12, 2022

Enrollment: 16 students

Price: $99

Class Description

What affects us most is not what happens to us, but how we perceive it.


Our perceptions produce emotions, dictate our decision making, and our future behaviours. Our perceptions create the fabric of our own personal narratives -- how we tell ourselves we got here. What we want. What we don’t want. Why we’re doing what we’re doing right now, and how we feel about that.

In this two-week course, you’ll learn the primary processes of perception, and how to apply them to both yourself, and your characters. You’ll master your characters’ perception -- and build relatable fiction based on the various relationships and interrelationships that make up their world. You’ll learn about the driving force in all human goal-seeking behaviour: the dopamine pathway, and how to harness it to create characters with wants endemic to themselves. You’ll also learn about what stops us from pursuing what we want: fear, and how to think about character growth as action in relation to it.

You’ll learn to see the worlds of your fiction writing as the infinite relationships between empathetic characters, and their environment. You’ll learn tools to better understand your own personality, the personality of your characters, and how you can draw upon this knowledge in creating drama between characters on the page. And you’ll end this class with a narrative that evolves from your protagonist’s own particular psychology -- a nuanced voice and personality with goals and fears and a web of entangled connections that drive them into a plot only they could live through.

Sam Westcott is an author and writing coach in Ottawa, Ontario. He believes writing is a revelatory process, and his own writing is often found at the intersections of fiction, philosophy, and psychology. His short stories have appeared in The Bear Creek Gazette, Close To The Bone, FILTH, Nauseated Drive, The Humber Literary Review: Spotlight, and others. He holds an Ontario Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Humber College and is at work on his first novel.

What This Class Covers

Week I: The Perception Toolbox and The Path Forward

  • Learn to see your story as the universal set of all possible stories, and the perspective of your protagonist as a single subset of this larger story.
  • Learn the triad of perception: thought, behaviour, emotion, how the points intersect, and draw upon this knowledge to begin creating your character, their perception, and as a result, their world.
  • Learn tools stemming from psychology, and astrology, that teach us how to better understand human personality. Learn how to apply these tools to create lifelike characters and relationships on the page.
  • Learn to see how your protagonist’s personality and perception intersects with those of other characters -- and how the way your protagonist perceives these relationships will result in their utility in their narrative.
  • Learn how dopamine impacts two primary kinds of relationships: the pursuit of goals, and the pursuit of meaningful social connections.
  • Next, see the plot of your story as the delineation of character action and decision-making that produces this kind of internal change in your protagonist over time

Week II: Putting it all together -- in your own way

  • Draw upon everything we’ve learned so far (C.B.T., story and perception, dopamine pathway, goal-setting, fear-setting, psychology of personality, philosophy of astrology) and combine all writing exercises into a coherent story, or create a new story from the ground up -- from outline, and character sketch to dramatization, pursuit, and synthesis.
  • Learn how the individual ways we show character thought, emotion, and perception are the building blocks of our own personal aesthetic as writers -- and how to lean into your own aesthetic and voice when crafting a short story.
  • Reflect on what you’ve learned, and how the three tools garnered in this class might offer a bridge between your own inner world and what happens on the page, without tying you to specific autobiographical events.
  • Submit a completed short story that encapsulates real 1st person perspectives, and receive detailed editorial feedback and guidance on where you take your story next.

Each week will include a thorough class lecture, a personal journaling exercise (that will not be submitted/graded), and a writing exercise based on the material (that will be submitted for feedback). Forums will be open with the option to discuss your experience of working through the class material, as well as the weekly writing assignments.

Goals Of This Class

  • Learn the three primary processes of perception, and how to apply them to both yourself, and the inner worlds of your characters.
  • Learn how to draw upon your own thoughts and emotions to create characters that are instantly relatable -- without getting too autobiographical on the page.
  • Learn to think of stories as the perception of various kinds of relationships.
  • Learn about the dopamine pathway -- how to set goals for your protagonist, and about the importance of obstacles, and emotions they experience and feel in relationship to these goals
  • Learn how the perspective of your character will grow when they confront their fears and grow themselves as people, and what this means for the rest of the story world.
  • Learn how to harness your own voice and personal aesthetic in presenting all of this information on the page -- and how leaning into your own way of doing this is part of the job description.
  • Construct a short story using the tools we learned in class and present it to the class for analysis.
  • A full-length short story (3-5k words) with character sketch and outline will be submitted for detailed editorial feedback at the end of the course.
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