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Review of “Writing Authentic Fiction: How to Build a Believable Character” by Sabaa Tahir on Skillshare

In this review, I explore Sabaa Tahir's course on authentic writing on Skillshare. I'll delve into the art of crafting authentic characters and share the valuable lessons I've gained from this course.

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How to Build a Believable Character on Skillshare: Our Verdict (2023)


4.5 / 5

"Writing Authentic Fiction: How to Build a Believable Character" by Sabaa Tahir on Skillshare takes you through the art of crafting authentic characters, where you'll learn the complexities of character development and storytelling. For aspiring writers and fiction enthusiasts, learning from Sabaa Tahir in this well-structured and engaging course is a great experience, as it offers useful insights to anyone interested in the art of character creation and storytelling.


  • Straight to the point, with no unnecessary filler content
  • Easy to understand and accessible for writers of all levels
  • Teaching through examples helps clarify concepts


  • Relatively short course, which would benefit from more in-depth coverage
  • Some might find the interview with a character challenging


Have you ever felt the magic of a well-written book, where characters come to life and take you into their world? As an avid reader and aspiring writer, I’ve always been captivated by the power of storytelling. But it wasn’t until I stumbled upon Sabaa Tahir’s “Writing Authentic Fiction: How to Build a Believable Character” on Skillshare that I began to appreciate the intricate art that goes into crafting compelling characters.

But is this course truly worth the investment, especially for aspiring writers and storytellers? This review strives to answer that question by taking you on a journey into the world of character development. We’ll explore the course’s content, examine its worth, and discover the amazing lessons it presents. So fasten your seatbelts as we are about to embark on this creative journey.

Table of Contents

Creating authentic characters is a fundamental skill for any aspiring fiction writer. Characters, as Sabaa Tahir says, are the heart and soul of a story, and their believability can make or break the reader’s engagement. In this review, we’ll dive deep into the course “Writing Authentic Fiction: How to Build a Believable Character,” led by YA novelist Sabaa Tahir.

Course overview

Writing Authentic Fiction: How to Build a Believable Character” is an online course hosted on Skillshare. Instructed by Sabaa Tahir, a YA author best known for her New York Times bestselling fantasy series “An Ember in the Ashes,” this course is designed to provide writers with the essential skills needed to create authentic and compelling characters.

The course covers several key topics for creating believable characters, from defining a character’s core attributes to understanding their motivations and conflicts. This exploration of character development, albeit brief, sets the basis for creating immersive stories.

With just 7 lessons and a total course duration of 32 minutes, it provides students with a quick glimpse into character creation fundamentals. Upon completion, you will have been introduced to some of the tools necessary to start bringing your characters to life, making readers relate to them. Whether you’re an aspiring writer or an established author looking to improve your character-building skills, this course offers practical techniques to elevate your storytelling.

Who is Sabaa Tahir?

Sabaa Tahir, young adult novelist
Sabaa Tahir, YA novelist

Sabaa Tahir is a young adult novelist best known for her New York Times bestselling fantasy series, which includes titles such as “An Ember in the Ashes,” “A Torch Against the Night,” and “A Reaper at the Gates.”

Before assuming writing as her full-time career, Sabaa Tahir served as an editor at “The Washington Post.” Through her literary achievements, Sabaa Tahir proves her ability to create characters that feel real, relatable, and unforgettable.

By enrolling in this course, students have the opportunity to learn from a fantastic storyteller, learning great techniques straight from an author who has achieved significant success in the young adult fiction genre.

Who is this course's target audience?

The course is designed to cater to a diverse range of individuals with a shared passion for storytelling and character development. It naturally appeals to, but it’s not limited to:

  • Writers: This course is an excellent resource for all writers, from beginners to professionals. It provides writers with the tools and techniques needed to create unique characters, making them relatable and engaging.
  • Aspiring Writers: If you’re an aspiring writer eager to launch your creative journey, this course provides a strong foundation for character development. It offers guidance to help you craft captivating characters out of scratch.
  • Artists: Visual artists seeking to create characters with depth and personality will find this course interesting. Understanding the psychology and complexity of characters can improve your visual storytelling.
  • Any creative person: It doesn’t matter if you’re a filmmaker, game developer, or any creative professional; the principles taught in this course can be applied to your respective field. It will help you create characters that appeal to your audience, enhancing your creative projects.

What is covered in the course?

To give you an idea of the content, here’s a quick rundown of each of the lessons:

  1. Introduction: An overview of the course, what you can expect to learn and achieve.
  2. Setting the Foundation: Learn about the essential elements that lay the groundwork for authentic character development, including character goals, motivations, and conflicts.
  3. Defining Attributes: Dive deeper into the process of defining key attributes that shape your characters, making them more believable and relatable.
  4. Prepping for the Interview: Explore the concept of character interviews and how they can serve as a powerful tool for understanding your characters on a deeper level.
  5. Conducting the Interview: Step into the shoes of your characters as you learn how to conduct character interviews. You’ll learn to uncover your character’s true essence.
  6. Starting Writing: You will now learn how to apply the knowledge gained from character interviews to your writing, setting the stage for creating new scenes around the questions you asked.
  7. Closing: In this brief conclusion to the course, Sabaa encourages you to apply your new knowledge in your creative work.

What I liked about the course

Several aspects of the course left me with a lasting positive impression:

1. Direct Approach to Character Creation

Sabaa gets right to the point
Sabaa gets straight to the point

One of the standout features of this course is the instructor’s direct approach to character development. From the very beginning, she delves right into the ways to craft realistic characters, sparing no time on unnecessary fillers.

2. Abundance of Useful Resources

Sabaa's Goal, Motivation, and Conflict spreadsheet
Sabaa’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict spreadsheet

The course offers a collection of valuable resources, and I especially loved the worksheets provided. These worksheets serve as practical tools for character creation, making the process more structured and manageable.

3. Rich Use of Examples

Analyzing the plot and main character of 'The Hunger Games
Studying The Hunger Games’ plot and main character

Sabaa effectively uses examples from well-known books to illustrate her lessons. This use of literary references not only clarifies the concepts being taught but also provides a clear understanding of how these techniques are applied in successful novels.

4. Character Interviews

Guidelines for a successful character interview
Guidelines for a successful character interview

The concept of conducting character interviews may seem unusual at first, but it is an extremely useful technique. These interviews can be fundamental in getting to know your characters on a deeper level. It’s a creative exercise that enables you to forge a unique connection with your characters.

5. Engaging and Fun

Sabaa assuming the role of one of the characters in her book
Sabaa pretending to be one of the characters in her book

The character interview section of the course stands out as a particularly enjoyable experience. It makes the somewhat intimidating prospect of interviewing your characters feel more approachable. It’s not just a valuable writing tool; it can also serve as an exercise for actors seeking to understand and embody characters in their performances.

What I didn't like about the course

While the course has numerous strengths, there are a couple of aspects that could be improved:

  1. Character Interviews May Not Be for Everyone: The character interviews involve recording yourself while pretending to be one of your characters. While this can be an effective technique, it could be challenging to some.
  2. Course Length: A minor drawback is the course’s duration. You may find that the course ends just as Sabaa is starting to delve deeper into the subject matter. A bit more content or additional advanced modules could help to further improve the learning experience.

These are relatively minor concerns that don’t decrease the course’s value. However, potential students should be aware of these aspects before enrolling to ensure the course aligns with their preferences and expectations.

How much does the course cost?

Courses on Skillshare can not be bought individually – they can only be accessed by signing up for a Skillshare membership. The good news? Skillshare offers e-student.org learners a full month free trial if you use our link (if not using our link, there is normally only a 7-day free trial). As virtually all Skillshare courses will take you less than a month to complete, you can in effect take this or any other Skillshare course for free – or any number of courses that you can finish in a month.

Once your free trial is over, the cost of Skillshare is $165 per year, which averages out to $13.75 per month. This gives you full access to all 34,000+ Skillshare courses. But if you're not happy to continue, you can easily cancel any time before your free trial ends – just go to your payment settings in your account.

If you have no need for a free trial, you can instead get %30 discount on your first year by using this special link instead. With this link, your first year will be just $115.50, averaging out to $9.63 per month. Note that this offer is only valid for new accounts, so it can't be combined with the 30-day free trial.

Conclusion – Is it worth it?

In the end, “Writing Authentic Fiction: How to Build a Believable Character” by Sabaa Tahir on Skillshare is undeniably a valuable course for anyone seeking to enhance their character development skills. The course’s strengths are abundant, from the instructor’s engaging teaching style to the many resources and exercises provided.

The course ignited my enthusiasm for creating characters. Sabaa Tahir’s approach and techniques showed me the depth and complexity that can be achieved in character development. I’m now motivated to dive more into character creation for my writing projects.

In conclusion, if you’re passionate about crafting authentic and multi-dimensional characters, this course is an excellent investment in your creative journey. The knowledge you’ll acquire, along with the practical tools provided, can significantly improve your character development skills. Remember that the true value of this course lies in applying what you’ve learned to your writing or creative projects.

So, are you ready to embark on the exciting path of storytelling and character creation?