Autobiography into fiction: a taster
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
This course has now finished
What is the course about?
This short taster course will introduce you to some techniques for transforming personal experience into fiction. You'll have the opportunity to improve your writing skills as well as your ability to give and use constructive criticism. The issues around using autobiographical material in fiction will be discussed.
Students say: "Provides a very good grounding in the basics"; "Good group atmosphere"; "Very good teaching and the exercises were inspiring"; "Really well-structured and great to have covered so many aspects"; "Enjoyed greatly and would like to do more."
Caitlin Davies is a novelist, non-fiction writer, and award-winning journalist. She is the author of six novels and seven narrative non-fiction books, including Bad Girls: The Rebels of Holloway Prison, nominated for the Orwell Prize (2019).
A Londoner by birth, she started her writing career as a human rights reporter and then newspaper editor in Botswana, during which she was twice arrested and put on trial. Her early books are set in the Okavango Delta, including the critically acclaimed memoir Place of Reeds.
Caitlin has also taught creative writing for 30 years in a wide range of settings and worked as a Royal Literary Fellow at the V&A, the Science Museum, and the University of Westminster.
Her latest book is Queens of the Underworld (The History Press, 2021); a journey into the lives of female crooks from the 17th century to today.
City Lit reserves the right to change course tutors from those advertised in this outline. In line with our refund policy we are unable to grant a refund on the grounds of a change of tutor.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
- How to fictionalise, including: how to start, how to focus, and find a story-line and theme
- Recasting and changing elements of the original “true” story including fictionalising people and events
- Using different voices
- Exploring dreams and fantasy as a way to fictionalise
- How to stay in touch with the emotional truth within the fictionalised version while navigating the problems and benefits of using personal material in fiction
- How to use journals.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Respond to, and assess, pieces of writing with sensitivity
- Write autobiographically-based fiction more effectively and confidently
- Identify and use some techniques for transforming personal material into fiction
- Identify and appreciate some of the issues around using autobiographical material in fiction.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an introductory course that also welcomes more experienced writers of fiction who are interested in writing fiction from life. Fluency in written and spoken English is essential.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
- Presentations by the tutor
- Writing exercises giving you practice in transforming personal material into fiction
- Class discussion of techniques and of the issues, problems and benefits of using personal material in fiction.
All writing courses at City Lit will involve an element of workshop. This means that students will produce work which will be discussed in an open and constructive environment with the tutor and other students. The college operates a policy of constructive criticism, and all feedback on another student’s work by the tutor and other students should be delivered in that spirit.
For classes longer than one day regular reading and writing exercises will be set for completion at home to set deadlines.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
You should bring paper and pens or pencils.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
City Lit runs a 6-week Autobiography into fiction course in Term 2 (January) at the intermediate level. Alternatively, you can choose to progress to another intermediate course such as Writing fiction, Short story writing, or Starting your novel. We also offer a range of courses in creative non-fiction if you are interested in life writing.
All students are invited to join us at Late Lines, our regular performance night for City Lit writers. Students are also encouraged to submit their work to Between the Lines, our annual anthology of creative writing. For the latest news, courses and events, stay in touch with the Department on Facebook and Twitter.