Learn about story structure, character, setting and everything in between.

Express Media presents Toolkits: Fiction, a step-by-step online program combining theoretical approaches, practical exercises, group workshopping, and one-on-one mentorship to guide young writers through the development of new works of fiction.

Over a 12-week intensive, participants will explore storytelling and ethics, learn how to craft characters, plots and plans and how to polish work for publication. With live broadcasts each fortnight and feedback weeks in between, Toolkits is first and foremost a practical initiative. Young writers will be encouraged to write, workshop and edit their writing throughout the course. 

In 2020, Toolkits: Fiction will be facilitated by Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year, Jennifer Down, author of Our Magic Hour and Pulse Points. Jennifer will facilitate the online sessions and workshops, providing one-on-one mentorship and individualised feedback to each writer.

Participants will also have the chance to learn from some of the best working writers and editors in the country, with guest artists including Bridget Caldwell-Bright and Holden Sheppard presenting online sessions for the next generation of Australian writers.


Wednesday 25th March | Week 1A | Square one: Beginnings and beyond
This week, we look at structure in fiction, starting from the top. What makes a successful beginning to a novel or story? Where do ideas come from? How do we give shape a story? We’ll look at some practical tips and ways to describe and think about plot to help you nail structure from start to finish.

Wednesday 1st April | Week 1B | Feedback week


Wednesday 8th April | Week 2A | Out of character: know your protagonists

Whether you’re the next Melina Marchetta, Ocean Vuong, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison or Isobelle Carmody, great characters transcend genre—they’re the lifeblood of any good writing. In this week’s class, we’ll talk about how to create believable, well-rounded protagonists that stay with you long after the story ends.

Wednesday 15th April | Week 2B | Feedback week


Wednesday 22 April | Week 3A | All talk: Dialogue, voice and point-of-view with Holden Sheppard, 6:00pm

This week is for those of us who cringe when we have to write a conversation, or whose characters all end up speaking with the same voice, or who worry about how to pace dialogue. Anyone who’s wondered if they’re better off using first- or third-person. Anyone who’s wondered how to make their conversation snappy and realistic. Award-winning writer Holden Sheppard joins us to talk about all things voice—from writing authentic, compelling dialogue.

Join the conversation and livestream this Toolkits Live event.

Wednesday 29 April | Week 3B | Feedback week


Wednesday 6th May | Week 4A | All over the place: writing setting

World-building is a critical part of the writing process—whether your story is set in real-life streets, a historic location, or a fictional city of your own creation. Time, place, environment, culture and climate all influence a narrative and its characters. In this week’s class, we’ll look at the importance of setting to explore how it can be used as more than just a backdrop to the action.

Wednesday 13th May | Week 4B | Feedback week


Wednesday 20 May | Week 5A | The devil’s in the detail: Description, imagery, style

What makes a distinctive writing style? What makes for good (and bad) description in fiction? Adverbs—where do we stand on the issue? In Week 5, we’ll take a fine-tooth comb to our sentences, with a host of examples and tips to make your writing as strong and effective as possible, line by line. Your future editors will love you.

Wednesday 27th May | Week 5B | Feedback week


Wednesday 3 June | Week 6A | Polishing, editing and submitting your work with Bridget Caldwell-Bright, 6:00pm

The final week of Toolkits is devoted to preparing your writing for submission, ensuring it’s as polished as possible. Joining us is Jingili Mudburra writer and editor Bridget Caldwell-Bright to talk all things publication. How can you tighten up a story when you’ve read it a zillion times? What does a good pitch look like? What’s it like to be edited? …and any other questions you’ve got.

Join the conversation and livestream this Toolkits Live event.


Wednesday 10th June | Week 6B | Feedback week


Have a question about Toolkits? Need help accessing the livestreams? Send an email to Express Media’s Creative Producer at

Jennifer Down is a writer, editor and translator. She was named a Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year consecutively in 2017 and 2018 for her debut novel, Our Magic Hour, and her short story collection, Pulse Points. Pulse Points received the 2018 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, and the Queensland Literary Award – Steel Rudd Prize for Short Fiction. She lives in Melbourne.

Holden Sheppard is a Geraldton born-and-bred author. His first novel ‘Invisible Boys’ won the 2018 City of Fremantle‚ T.A.G. Hungerford Award and the 2017 Ray Koppe Award. In 2019 ‘Invisible Boys’ also won the Kathleen Mitchell Award from the Australia Council for the Arts. This is for an outstanding novel or novella by an Australian author aged 30 or under. His novella ‘Poster Boy’ won the 2018 Novella Project competition and was published in ‘Griffith Review’. Holden is represented by The Nash Agency.

Bridget Caldwell-Bright is a Jingili Mudburra writer and editor based in Melbourne. She works as a freelance editor for Hardie Grant Books as well as commissioning editor for literary journal The Lifted Brow. She was previously co-editor for Archer Magazines First Nations Edition and managing editor for Blak Brow, a Black Women’s Collective edition of The Lifted Brow.


Toolkits: Fiction is generously supported by The Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.