Effective Writing 3: Writing Fiction


Recent discoveries at the cutting edge of neuroscience have confirmed what five-year-old children have always known: we human beings love stories. More than that, we are hard-wired to tell stories and hard-wired to respond to them. Writing stories is a relatively recent innovation for humans - a mere 3000 years old - yet it has rapidly evolved into an intricate and rewarding art form, one that yields great pleasure for both the reader and the writer.

In this series of linked day schools we will unravel the secrets of the storyteller’s art, not in a dusty theoretical fashion, but by rolling up our sleeves and doing lots of writing. Over the course of the three days we will explore the key elements of writing fiction:  character, dialogue, description, plot, narrative viewpoint, narrative voice, and much more.  We will experiment with the numerous tools in the storyteller's kitbox to extend and deepen your understanding of the stories you want to tell and the ways in which you want to tell them.

There will be plenty of opportunities to try out an array of approaches for yourself in the workshops, so come prepared to roll up your sleeves and get writing. 

Day 1: First Catch your Unicorn

We will begin by exploring where ideas come from, and how to transform them into the basis for a great story.  We will then learn how to go about creating convincing and arresting characters to people that story.

Day 2: Unfolding the Dream

Today we examine the all-important skills of story-hooks, plot-engines and narrative arcs, and how to keep your reader enthralled from start to finish. We will also be exploring the vital role of descriptive writing and narrative perspective in creating depth and resonance in your stories.

Day 3: Voicing the Vision

On day 3 we will discover how 'voice' works in fiction and how to give our characters strong, original and compelling voices. We will experiment with different forms of dialogue and different types of voice-vehicle to make your characters' speech buzz and hum in the reader's mind.  We will explore the art of concealment in effective dialogue, and 'sculpt a dialogue' to get to the heart of what is really going on when our characters speak to each other.

Comments from previous students:

'The course was brilliant. Rebecca Abrams is amazing, not just for her knowledge and her teaching skills but for the fact that she is so engagingly enthusiastic. I had to come all the way down from Edinburgh for each of the three one-day sessions and, every time, I was struck by the notion that it was 100% worthwhile. I was genuinely excited to be learning so much in so short a space of time.'

'These three days covered an immense amount of ground and was just what I - entirely new to creative writing - wanted. I liked the large amount of practice which was involved and the 'hints and tips' rather than theoretical approach, and the teaching was exemplary.'

Programme details

Registration takes place at 9.15am on Friday 22 April. 

Friday 29 April and Friday 6 May both start at 9.30am.

Each day will finish at 5pm.

Refreshment breaks are as follows for all three days:

  • Tea/coffee: 10.45am–11.15am
  • Lunch: 12.30pm–2.00pm
  • Tea/coffee: 3.15pm–3.45pm

Friday 22 April 2022


Session 1 Exploring techniques for generating ideas

Session 2 Finding characters to people our ideas

Session 3 Using narrative point of view to create believable characters

Session 4 Developing multiple characters and multiple points of view

Friday 29 April 2022


Session 1 Introducing and understanding the skill of plotting

Session 2 Developing strong plot-engines and powerful narrative arcs

Session 3 Descriptive writing: honing the art of telepathy

Session 4 How to use themes, metaphors and symbols

Friday 6 May 2022


Session 1 Exploring narration and narrative voice

Session 2 Developing unique voices for your characters

Session 3 Dialogue as action: how to create convincing dialogue

Session 4 Conflict, surprise, twists and turns.


This course is accredited with 10 CATS Points at FHEQ Level 4.

Find out more about the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (known as CATS) .


Description Costs
Tuition (includes coffee/tea) £250.00
Baguette lunch for all 3 weeks £16.50


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Ms Rebecca Abrams


Rebecca Abrams is an award-winning author, teacher and journalist. Her novel, Touching Distance (Picador, 2008) was highly praised by Hilary Mantel, won the 2009 MJA Award for Fiction and was shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize for Literature.  She is also the author of several successful non-fiction titles,including The Jewish Journey: 4000 years in 22 objects (Ashmolean, 2017), and When Parents Die (Taylor & Francis, 2012).  Her stage play, The Meeting Room, was performed at the Oxford Mint House in June 2019.  Rebecca is a long-standing tutor on the Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford, and was the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Brasenose College, Oxford from 2017­2020,  Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone’s Library from 2014­­­­–2015, and First Story Writer-in-Residence at Larkmead School, Abingdon from 2011–2012. She is a regular literary critic for the Financial Times, a former columnist on the Daily Telegraph, and the recipient of an Amnesty International Press Award.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.


Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.