Fiction Fluency Mastery Curriculum

Fiction Fluency Mastery Series Part I: Step-by-Step Building Blocks of Dramatic Fiction

The Fiction Fluency II group demonstrates the core developmental tools and patterns for producing stories that have a strong emotional impact on the reader.

PLEASE NOTE: Fiction Fluency with Eric Witchey is a 12-month program that is split into two modules, a 3-month Fundamentals Series, and a 9-month Mastery Series. One can take the Fundamentals or Mastery Series separately, or take both (best value) for a full-year of scaffolded training. Seminars cannot be taken individually outside of these two series, as each seminar builds on the previous. You are currently viewing the Mastery Series. To learn more about the Fundamentals Series click here. For a full program overview click here.

Seminar 1: Characterization in Dramatic Scenes

September 9-10, 2023

We have all written strong pieces then looked at them and wondered if we wrote a story or just a scene. This seminar explores the dramatic scene as the practical building block for building stories. The seminar will explore character by introducing the concept of Irreconcilable Self. We’ll demonstrate the relationship of that character knowledge to the power of six-layered scenes that include three types of conflict combined with static setting, dynamic setting, and interactive setting. Exercises will include group creation of a dramatic scene and development of character understanding. The nested EPST and ED ACE tools will be presented and applied in a way that will allow participants to deconstruct and reconstruct scenes in their own work. 

Seminar 2: Deeper Character Development and Stronger Impact through Conflict Sets

October 7-8, 2023

“OMG! They wanted me to cut 30%!” Well, if they did, or if your beta readers are skimming, or if your mother’s eyes glaze over while reading then she says, “Bless your heart. That’s so nice, Dear. You are so smart,” then chances are fairly good this is the seminar that will turn things around. This seminar examines Vertical and Horizontal Story (seminar 3) in more depth and explores the nature of and interactions of three types of conflict (conflict sets) and how they interact inside a scene. Exercises will demonstrate how to design, discover, or exploit conflict by understanding and evaluating text through the lenses of three types of conflict. We’ll continue to examine characters and their relationships to risk, stakes, and consequence. EPST and ED ACE will both be used for analysis and revision. Various techniques for exploration of character will be demonstrated and applied. Character emotional states will be applied to the creation of Indirect Dialog in more detail than in the previous seminar.

Seminar 3: Character Definition and Impact on In-scene Agendas and Tactics

November 4-5, 2023

“You have beautiful prose, but….” Not a letter you want to receive from the editor. If our characters don’t reveal differences through choices, they are all the same character to the reader/editor. This seminar explores how characters interact when faced with mutually exclusive agendas on a choice-by-choice level. The seminar includes development of characters with personal history, unique psychology, unique physiology, and well-developed desires that change as circumstances change. We’ll demonstrate how and why their attempts to achieve results are unique to them in the context of a dramatic moment. The seminar combines the emotional (dialectic pairs) with changes in emotional/psychological states that drive tactic changes. We’ll look closely at tactic changes in dialog and how those changes can cause the reader to know much more than is actually being said. The concept of Emotional/Psychological State Transformations (EPSTs) will be applied. ED ACE will also be used. Exercises will include production and revision of new text.

Seminar 4: Character Influence and Line-by-line Emotional Contrasts

December 2-3, 2023

The crit group said it was “slow through here” or “she wasn’t a sympathetic character.” Even the description of drying paint can be made powerful in the mind/heart of the reader once you understand what the reader needs. The basis of all human perception is recognition of contrasts: figure/ground, hotter/colder, brighter/darker, higher/lower, better/worse, etc. This seminar demonstrates how our perception mechanisms translate words on a page into recognizable emotional contrasts. That reality is translated into the participant’s ability to recognize, design, analyze, and exploit opposing energies (dialectic pairs) by understanding the character that experiences those energies. Exercises in very short narrative description and dialog will include use of, the ED ACE tool, the Because, Because technique, manipulation of implication, and management of reader projection. This seminar will end with a full review of all the aspects of scene development that have been explored in seminars 4-7.

Fiction Fluency Mastery Series Part II: Building Stories from Character and Building Character from Stories

Controlling short fiction is a powerful building block to have as a foundation to building novels. Everything you do in a short story you must also do in a novel. However, novels require a bit more. Short stories let writers learn faster, test technique more quickly, and build reputation. The previous seminars established creative habits, developed an understanding of how readers create stories in their hearts and minds from little black squiggles, built up a repertoire of scene elements that can be combined in an infinite number of ways limited only by our own creativity, and demonstrated techniques for building full, dramatic scenes that support the creation of larger works. The Fiction Fluency III group of seminars stacks up those building blocks in different configurations to create stories, short and long. 

Seminar 5: Flash Fiction: Controlling Story and Theme in Very Short Character-driven Fiction

January 6-7, 2024

We scratch our chins and ask ourselves if it really is a story or not. This seminar provides answers to that question. A dramatic story is different from an essay, a poem, or an article in important ways. This seminar introduces control statements as tools for designing, testing, and revising stories. Initially, the control statements will be demonstrated in the creation of flash fiction of between 500 and 1000 words. The first four layers of vertical story elements will be reviewed and demonstrated. Discovery of character from text and application of character to text will be explored. Stories developed during the seminar will consist of dialectic pairs that create tactic groups, which then create conflict sets, which in turn combine with setting to create a dramatic scene. Application of the control statements during revision will support creation of a satisfying feeling in the reader by providing resolution that has thematic significance. Exercises include exploration of character relative to theme and translation of the character/theme relationship into agendas executed and resolved on stage. Premise, Theme, Irreconcilable Self, EPST, and ED ACE will be applied. Seminar participants will walk away able to apply these tools and techniques to their own work.

Seminar 6: Short Stories: Character Impact on Top-down or Bottom-up Short Story Development

February 3-4, 2024

Where to start? How to start? Having started, what comes next? This seminar answers these and other questions by beginning with a review of vertical and horizontal story elements. Intuitive discovery of character and story will be discussed and demonstrated. Design process for character and story will be discussed and demonstrated. A technique combining both and prototyping story for experimentation with scenes before full production will be demonstrated. Control statements, EPST, ED ACE, and character discovery tools will be used to create stories of 3-7 scenes. Several time saving metadescription techniques for story development will be introduced. This seminar will continue exploration of character depth and the interaction of cognitive and intuitive creative work.

Seminar 7: Manifesting Character in Text: Scene Sequences, Agenda Stacks, Voice, Tone, Distance, and Subjectivity

March 9-10, 2024

We’re sure it’s a story, but we aren’t sure if it’s good enough. Do we really want to spend hundreds of hours revising? How do we know? This seminar examines existing, in-process stories and demonstrates techniques for revision based on intended or discovered themes, characters, and conflicts. The seminar demonstrates how to make choices regarding voice, tone, distance, subjectivity, and person both prior to composition and during revisions. The ripple-effect of changes and shorthand techniques for managing ripple effects will be demonstrated. These techniques will be presented in the tenth session so that people who have followed along this far can revise existing stories and so that as we move into larger works problems can be anticipated and solved prior to committing hundreds of hours to a work in progress.

Fiction Fluency Master Series Part III: Character, Theme, and Transformation in Long Works

Everything we do in a short story, we also do in novels, but there’s more to do in a novel. The Fiction Fluency IV Group brings character, theme, and prototyping into focus for the creation of and revision of novels. Initially, tools and techniques will be presented as methods of developing powerful stories that have one main character who is also the only point of view character. Once understanding of a single POV novel is established, multiple POV works and parallel story structures will be explored. Analysis of existing viral novels will be presented. Participants will use prototyping tools to discover, design, develop, or revise their own longer works. 

Seminar 8: Movements, Parallel Stories, Multiple POVs, and Developing Themes to Prove Premises

April 6-7, 2024

Characters or ideas not complex enough to support a full novel? Maybe. Maybe the themes of social and cultural context aren’t bringing out the full depth of character. In this seminar, full character depth will be explored in the context of theme and premise. The seminar will include a review of vertical and horizontal story elements, and it will connect those elements to character transformation and themes. An initial prototyping exercise will demonstrate management of story elements relative to one another for a single-POV novella or novel. A second exercise will demonstrate the same techniques applied to a multiple-POV novella or novel with additional attention paid to interactions between the POV threads and management of timelines and off-stage characters. Existing stories will be presented as examples, and new material will be prototyped. If time permits, anchor scenes will be developed and discussed.

Seminar 9: Polish and Publish

May 4-5, 2024

We have written a great dramatically complete story, but it’s still not good enough. Even if it is, how do we sell it? The final Fiction Fluency seminar focuses on revision processes using Control Statements, Reader Acquisition Patterns, ED ACE, re-visioning, found symbols, exploitation of refrains, screen tests, false scenes, extreme testing, and management of levers, ratchets, buttons, and motifs. Automated support for fast polishing techniques is also presented. This seminar revisits many previous concepts from the perspective of creating emotional impact after the overall story is dramatically complete. This seminar is almost entirely about top-down revision processes. It demonstrates efficiencies based on understanding the difference between “dramatically complete” and “emotional best form.” The end of the seminar will include a discussion of markets and various approaches to them.