What we coach

Generating ideas

To reach unfettered flow, writers require an attitude of curiosity, trust and receptivity. In our sessions, we show you how to access a state of flow and harness the creative mind – all those ideas, images, memories and emotions deep within us.  

With free-writing exercises, we help you tap into your creative voice, bypassing the censor in your head; we then explore that raw material, taking threads of ideas and themes that we weave together in surprising ways.

Creating characters

“Character is plot, plot is character.” F. Scott-Fitzgerald

Character complexity is what sparks the ‘engine’ of our stories. It’s the contradictions and conflicts within that will generate dilemmas or obstacles for characters, driving the narrative.

We peel back a character’s layers to reveal who they really are. What do they want? What do they fear? How can we raise the stakes? With flesh on the bones, we then consider character arcs and the progression along their journeys. 

Once characters are formed and motivation is high, the plot thickens.

Point of view

It can be a challenge simply choosing whose point of view to write from, let alone sustaining it throughout that character’s narrative. 

Who should be telling this story or strand and why? Which point of view will most interest the reader and why? Do we need more than one point of view character to tell this story? 

We look at how point of view has changed over time, how it can shape the narrative, and what’s entailed in those initial decisions.

Telling and showing

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

– Anton Chekov

The difference between telling and showing is not only a tough concept to grasp, it can also be tricky to find the right balance. Too much telling will slow your story down and kill your reader’s interest, whereas too much showing can lose the reader or make things hard work. 

We analyse the use of each skill and explore when, why and what makes one more apt than the other. 

In exercises that bring the concepts to life, we look at how telling can provide vital secondary information or move the narrative forwards, and we discover how showing can deepen characterisation or reveal significant turns of plot. 

Setting and description

A strong sense of place not only adds interest and atmosphere for the reader, it also serves to strengthen characterisation, foreshadow plot points, and create tone. However, overdone or overwritten, setting and description can kill pace, dilute tension, and bore readers. 

But how much description is too much? And where should it go in the narrative?

We analyse writing where setting and description serve significant purpose and look at how they enrich the narrative. Once we unpick the skill, we explore how you can infuse your writing with descriptive imagery and specific details of setting in ways that keep your reader interested and engaged.

Dealing with dialogue

What a character says, and how he says it, makes a strong impression on a reader, and while pleasant conversations might work in real life, in fiction, it’s a whole different story. 

Dialogue needs purpose that drives the story forward, makes characters and their relationships credible, or provides information that’s crucial to our understanding. Sometimes a simple exchange of information between characters is just what’s required, but for the most part, dialogue requires tension, disagreement and conflict between characters. 

We work out how to give each character their own unique speaking voice, then we ramp up the excitement by adding conflict, opposing goals and subtext. The result? Dialogue that speaks for itself.

Speaking with silence

Dialogue speaks volumes but sometimes silence says more. 

In considering the balance between dialogue and silence, we explore how omission and understatement can have greater impact, and how actions can sometimes speak louder than words to convey what a character is really thinking or feeling. We also consider the ‘beats’ between lines of dialogue and how description that shows can often say more than words that tell.

Beginnings,middles and ends

All stories need to build on themselves to carry the reader through the setup, over the middle, and on to the resolution, and we look at how that can be achieved. 

We study the ways to hook the reader from the very start determining how your first word, first sentence, first paragraph should be all it takes to get a reader involved. 

The major part of the story is developing the story’s question, its mystery. We show you how to stop stories from sagging in the middle with confrontation and conflict, as well as blossoming subplots. 

And finally, we reach the end that gives us resolution. We discover how to create a feeling of inevitability while also surprising the reader in the process.

Editing and redrafting

On how he sculpted David, Michelangelo said, “I looked at the stone and removed all that wasn’t David.” 

But how do you know what your work is? 

We start with the intention of your story. 

With the raw material you amass over the week, we return to interrogate and refine your early drafts, identifying what works, before developing ideas and structuring the whole for the greatest impact.  

We consider how to edit and redraft using feedback from the group to generate discussion, and help you commit to a story that you’ll work on when you’re at home.

Retreats and Revision Ltd. Registered in England 12004147 at Chapel Road Accounting Services Limited, Carlton Park House, Saxmundham, Suffolk IP17 2NL

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