Writing Violence in Literary Fiction and Creative Nonfiction: Are Your Violent Scenes Essential or Gratuitous?

How do we transcend the cliched and gratuitous fight scene when writing violence? How do we create a scene that will engage smart readers in critical, aware and rigorous ways? Writing violence in literary narratives is no different than any other scene, really. It is all about focusing on the character as unique. In this Writing Violence Workshop, we will explore scenes from Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Alice Munro’s “Runaway” and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as character focused violence in literary fiction and creative nonfiction.

Writing Violence Goals

    • Identify the difference between writing gratuitous violence and writing essential violence within literature;
    • Identify language that elicits smart context within violent scenarios;
    • Explore the characters as human, flawed and unique;
    • Develop character-rich tensions within scenarios.

Writing Violence Course Format

Each week, you will have access to a new lesson. Work at your own pace. When you are ready for individualized feedback—developmental, line and end notes—from one of our faculty members, submit your work. Instructors have graduate degrees and professional publication experience in their workshop focuses. Participants may complete assignments anytime. We are open to English-speaking and writing participants both locally and globally and encourage gender and ethnic diversity in our workshops. 

Writing Violence Course Materials

Additional & Suggested Materials

Contributing Faculty

Rae Bryant, writing violence workshopRae Bryant is the author of the short story collection, The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals. Her fiction, prose-poetry and essays have appeared in print and online at The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, Diagram, StoryQuarterly, McSweeney’s, New World Writing, Gargoyle Magazine, and Redivider, among other publications and have been nominated for the Pen/Hemingway, Pen Emerging Writers, &NOW Award and Pushcart Prize. She has won awards in fiction from Whidbey Writers and The Johns Hopkins University. She earned a Masters in Writing from Hopkins where she continues to teach creative writing and is editor in chief of The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. She has also taught in the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa. She is represented by Jennifer Carlson of Dunow, Carlson and Lerner.

Why Online Writing Workshops?

Online writing workshops present the best of both worlds for creative writers: creative isolation and craft interaction. The New Yorker article by Louis Menand, “Show or Tell: Should Creative Writing be Taught?” proposes the perennial question of whether or not writers can be taught or must be born. Our stance at The Eckleburg Workshops is that writers can be shown many craft writing skills and be encouraged to explore voice through the practice of these skills as well as the observation of these skills in both master and developing narratives. It is our stance that creative writing can be sculpted and nurtured and is best taught by published authors and experienced writing teachers. This is what we give you in each and every writing course and in our One on One individualized manuscript sessions.

Modern Memoir

Join us for the Modern Memoir workshop.


  • To identify and read exemplary works as a foundational study to creating your own;
  • To generate new drafts of work;
  • To provide critical feedback on work so you can revise and make it as strong as it can be;
  • To help you further strengthen your knowledge of form and to provide you with the environment to better understand your individual voice so you can apply this to future works;
  • To help you learn and improve on the techniques of writing and self-editing so that you are aware of your preferred forms and boundaries and be able to consider how you might push your preferred forms into your best craft.


Wendy Ralph, PhD (A.B.D) is an an award-winning author and writing instructor published in Upstreet, The Los Angeles Review, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, Yemassee, and many others. Wendy is also a Pushcart Prize nominee whose scholarly and teaching excellence earned her high honors at The University of South Carolina and beyond. Learn more about Wendy and her work at www.wendyralph.com.