Fact or Fiction? Writing Hybrid Forms

w/ Drusilla Modjeska

Drawing on thirty years of experience as a writer of both fiction and creative non-fiction – sometimes powerfully merging the two – and as a lecturer and tutor, Drusilla Modjeska’s six-week program will explore how to draw on fictional techniques in the creation of vivid characters and stories from the lives of ‘real’ people.

20 May – 24 June 2021 (6 weeks)
Thursday evening sessions, 6.30 – 8.30pm

$975 / $829 alumni

This is an intensive course for those interested in challenging themselves to take on hybrid forms of writing from lived experience, whether autofiction, memoir or from historical, or family record.

There are many ways to write the stories of historical figures, of people we have known, or of our own experience. Whether we lean towards fiction or non-fiction in the stories we want to tell, we will face similar questions of how best to create a character, how to ground that character and their story in time and in place, from which perspective to write, how to deal with gaps in the record, conflicts in interpretation, and our own part in the story and its telling.

This course will explore ways of approaching these questions in the writing of a life, or lives, based in lived experience and/or historical reality. Over the course of the six sessions, each participant will have the opportunity to present a short section of their work-in-progress for class workshop. Each session will include feedback, mini-talks, suggested readings and dedicated time for questions and answers.

Please note this course will be delivered online.

Writers you'll be working with:

Drusilla Modjeska

Drusilla Modjeska has written several hybrid creative non-fiction titles including Poppy (1990), a ‘fictional biography’ of her mother, and The Orchard (1994), an auto-fictional memoir. Both books won several awards, as did Stravinsky’s Lunch (1999) which brought a contemporary eye to the lives of the Australian modernist artists Grace Cossington Smith and Stella Bowen. The…

Course outline

Session One:

Introduction, including participant introductions and their projects.
What are the possibilities, and also the pitfalls, of using fictional techniques in the creation of non-fictional characters? What is autofiction?
How to decide whether to slant towards fiction or non-fiction?
Why does it matter how a story is told?

Session Two:

Character. Making your character real on the page.
How to ground your character and story.
The Event and the Everyday

Session Three:

How to construct a scene.
How to establish place and time.
How to write shifts in time.

Session Four:

Voice, Point of view and Perspective.
Who is telling this story? When are they telling it? To whom are they telling it?
Why are they telling it?

Session Five:

How to frame your story?
What is a narrative arc?
How to construct – and conceal – your scaffolding.

Session Six:

Where to from here: How to take your story forward.
Review of participant projects.


How to Apply

To apply you will need to submit, in a single document:

  • A brief 250 word overview of the project you plan to bring to class
  • A 250 word sample of prose from your work in progress

This process ensures that all applicants are applying for the course best suited to their needs.

Enter your application for Fact or Fiction here by Friday May 7 2021.

Please note Drusilla is unable accept applications from those working in fantasy, medieval, romance or science fiction genres.