The Five Elements of Fiction

Storytelling With the Five Elements of Taoist Philosophy

If you want to shrink something, you must first let it expand. If you want to get rid of something, you must first allow it to flourish. If you want to take something, you must first allow it to be given.

Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu

Course dates

Next Group Course Autumn 2022 (Dates TBC) – Work Alone Option Coming Soon




£150 (if you are a member of the community with a package that gives you a discount on courses, email us for the discount code)

Discounts also available for low income writers – contact us for info.

Spaces: Limited to 12 writers

There is also the option to pay in 3 instalments of £50 each.

The five elements at the heart of the Taoist philosophy are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. This online creative writing course will use the characteristics associated with each element to find new ways to inspire stories and create memorable narrators.

The Five Elements Theory was developed by observing nature and its cycles. The Taoists wanted to understand how the universe worked and how that related to us here on Earth. They observed the heavens, the seasons, the weather, the animals, and all natural phenomena to come up with a theory of how everything is connected.

During this course, we’ll look at how these ideas around the five elements, and what they mean to human beings, can be used to create new stories with characters that have real depth.

Course outline

Each week a workshop will be posted on the Monday that will include

  • discussion of that week’s element;
  • ideas for how it can be used in writing stories and creating characters;
  • inspirational readings (22 in total throughout the course);
  • and a story writing assignment.

This course is 6 weeks long and asynchronous (so you can log in and add to the discussion whenever you want). It runs on our community website and you will have access to all of the content and events that run in the community for the duration of the course.

  • Workshop 1: Wood
  • Workshop 2: Fire
  • Workshop 3: Earth
  • Workshop 4: Metal
  • Workshop 5: Water
  • Workshop 6: The Five Elements in Harmony

You can post your assignments in the course forum for feedback from fellow course participants and the tutor. You can also send one story up to 2,500 words for detailed feedback after the course ends. 

Course tutor


Amanda’s is the author of two novels, As If I Were A River (2016),  and Remember Tomorrow (2019). Her flash fictions and short stories have been widely published and listed in the Mslexia Flash Fiction Competition, Fish Flash Fiction Prize, Flash 500, V300, Ink Tears Short Story Prize and the Cranked Anvil Short Story Prize. Her micro fiction won the Editor’s Choice Prize at 101 Words. 

Amanda is the founder of Retreat West (Winner: Most Innovative Publisher 2020 Saboteur Awards). She has been studying Taoist philosophy and practicing Qigong for several years and is excited to bring these elements into creative writing.