Online course

Start Writing Fiction

This hands-on course helps you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the central skill of creating characters.

Why join the course?

Start Writing Fiction focuses on a skill which is central to the writing of all stories and novels – creating characters.

You will listen to established writers, such as Louis de Bernières, Patricia Duncker, Alex Garland, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Tim Pears, Michèle Roberts and Monique Roffey, talk about how they started writing. You’ll consider the rituals of writing and the importance of keeping a journal.

You’ll learn how to develop your ideas and the importance of reflecting on writing and editing, and you’ll hear other writers talking about their approaches to research and consider ways of turning events into a plot.

You’ll also have the opportunity to review and comment on the work of fellow writers, and receive peer feedback on your own story, learning the importance of reading as a writer and how to receive and respond to feedback.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsNowadays, when people ask me what I write about, I say, food, sex, and God. And that just about sums it up. I think your characters find you in the same that your ideas find you. I think they settle on you. Start Writing Fiction focuses on a skill that is central to the writing of all stories, creating characters. Through the course, you'll explore various ideas and take part in exercises to help you develop your own characters. You'll start writing your own stories, learn to read like a writer, and how to edit.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 secondsYou'll hear from a number of successful authors, including Michele Roberts, Alex Garland, and Louis de Bernieres, as they talk about their own experiences of writing. There seem to be two different types of character. There's the type that just turns up at your shoulder like a ghost and insists on being written. The other kind of character is the sort that you invent more or less from scratch or creator as a composite of various people that you've noticed or come across. You'll see how established authors such as Toni Morrison, Graham Greene, and Kate Atkinson, have written and presented characters in their novels.

Skip to 1 minute and 22 secondsBy the end of the course, you'll have learned tricks, such as the importance of redrafting and using a journal to generate ideas. And, most important of all, you'll start writing yourself.

When would you like to start?

Who is the course for?

This course is intended for those with an interest in starting to write fiction or improving their fiction writing, and does not require any previous experience of studying this subject.

Please be aware that participation in this course involves reviewing work posted by other learners. You may find some material used in these stories is of an adult nature (e.g. language, sex, violence) and although captured in context, may offend. Learners on this course are instructed to place warnings at the top of their work to indicate use of such content.

Recommended for learners age 16+.

Who will you learn with?

Derek Neale

A novelist and short story writer – his latest novel is The Book of Guardians - Derek has recorded many interviews with novelists, playwrights and biographers about their approach to writing.

Who developed the course?

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised certificate in both digital and printed formats, to celebrate taking part.

$49.00