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Fantastic Fiction: Writing Magical Worlds

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Start: 23rd January 2019 - 6:00pm

Finish: 27th February 2019 - 8:30pm


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Fantastic Fiction: Writing Magical Worlds

Are you a writer that bends the rules of reality? Do you look to folklore, magic and the supernatural for inspiration in your writing?

Join award-winning author Zoe Gilbert for a very special evening course dedicated to writing that comes with a fantastical edge.

Designed to focus on how to capture, develop and nurture the fantastical elements of a story, this is a course that applies to any genre, suitable for writers of all abilities, and comes packed with discussion, working examples and practical exercises to be taken away and applied to your own work. All attendees will also benefit from guest speaker slots by authors and industry professionals, and leave with a fantastical title or two courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing.

This course includes:

- Six sessions, 2.5 hours in length, and with a maximum of 16 students

- Practical workshops with takeaway exercises to be applied to your own work

- One free copy of either the latest edition of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (RRP £25) or the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (RRP £22)

- Two copies of fantastical titles courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing  


Week 1: From ideas to stories

Wednesday 23rd January 2019

How do we get from an inspiring idea, or object, to an engaging story? We’ll use simple writing exercises to find the stories behind intriguing objects, and discuss how other writers have used the traditions of folklore and magic in their work. We’ll also explore how magical creatures and transformations can speak deeply to us of change or individuality in fiction. How can we develop a creature, or a relationship with one, that brings symbolic meaning to a story?

Week 2: Characters and communities

Wednesday 30th January 2019

In week two we’ll focus on character development. How do we animate a character, and make them distinctive? We’ll explore how to develop characters that drive their own plots, and ways to bring them to life on the page. Then we’ll experiment with placing characters into communities, and see how their friends and foes become part of their story. We’ll also play with the power of names.

Week 3: Settings and magical mapping

Wednesday 6th February 2019

In this session we’ll experiment with using memory and all five senses to build rich settings that draw readers in. We’ll think about the kind of worlds your stories take place in, and how to describe these vividly. We’ll also learn about using settings to enhance the reader’s insight into characters, and how they see the world. Using maps, we’ll explore world-building, and guiding your readers through a magical place.

Week 4: Plot, story and fate

Wednesday 13th February 2019

Stories need tension, conflict and choices, and characters pushed to extremes. In this session we’ll explore how things can go wrong for a character, and how to create tension when they do. What makes a strong story shape, that satisfies the reader? We’ll try taking inspiration from the skeleton structures of folk tales. We’ll also try different methods for creating a story, from using archetypal plot shapes to throwing in unexpected twists and turns. 

Week 5: Voice, point of view and language

Wednesday 20th February 2019

Ellen Holgate, Head of Children's Fiction at Bloomsbury Publishing, joins us for a session in which we’ll look at a range of voices and approaches for storytelling. We’ll consider the powers that certain points of view and tenses possess, and how can we use them effectively. Who is speaking and why, where are they speaking from? We’ll also look closely at language in our writing, and the power of careful world choice. We’ll experiment with narrative styles that express our characters and their attitudes, as well the world they live in. 

Week 6: Editing, and nurturing your writing

Wednesday 27th February 2019

In our final session, we’ll be joined by Alexa von Hirschberg, Senior Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing, to discuss how to nurture our writing and keep going, as well as how to edit our work. How do we know when a story is finished? We’ll look at tips and principles, from ways to keep our nerve when writing, to polishing up our prose. You’ll take away handouts of editing advice. We’ll end the course with a glass of wine, and a chance to share your work.

About your course leader

Zoe Gilbert

Zoe Gilbert is an award-winning author whose first novel, Folk, was published by Bloomsbury in 2018. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and journals in the UK and internationally, and won prizes including the Costa Short Story Award 2014. She teaches and mentors writers at London Lit Lab, and at organisations including the British Library and Arvon Foundation. She has travelled to China and South Korea with the British Council to present her work, and is completing a Creative Writing PhD at the University of Chichester, exploring folk tales in fiction. 

Guest speakers

Alexa von Hirschberg (credit - Alex Bonney)

Alexa von Hirschberg is a Senior Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing, where she works with authors including Natasha Pulley, Samantha Shannon, Zoe Gilbert, Melissa Harrison, Patrick deWitt, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Kate Tempest, Aminatta Forna, Benjamin Myers, Laurie Penny and PJ Harvey.

Ellen Holgate

Ellen Holgate is Head of Children’s Fiction at Bloomsbury Publishing, where she works with authors including Jessie Burton, Katherine Rundell, Sibeal Pounder, Catherine Doyle, Stephanie Burgis, Mary Watson and Laura James.


‘I really feel it has got me back into feeling positive about writing.’

‘Inspiring, magical, uplifting.’

‘I learned a lot (not least from Zoe’s wonderful teaching style), and best of all I was INSPIRED!’

‘Original, clear, dynamic.’

‘It gave a very clear structure in approaching creative writing and getting over the first hurdle of writing and creating scene, characters and tension. I can't thank you enough.’

‘Fun, friendly, full of ideas.’

Event Details

The event will be held at Bloomsbury Publishing, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP. Each session will begin at 6pm prompt, and run until 8.30pm.

Booking & Payment

The course fee of £350 (inc. VAT) is payable in full online. Please do contact us to discuss an instalment payment plan by calling 0207 631 5985 or by sending an email to

If this event is Sold Out, please look out for other writing courses by visiting our Events homepage.


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