Storm Watchers Descend on Tofino (the retreat was a success!)

Winter writing retreat in Tofino, BC, Canada

It was a dark and stormy night… Although, actually, it wasn’t. The Darling Axe’s first ever writing retreat took place in Tofino (February 5-9), and there wasn’t a storm in sight. We had good weather for the whole week, which turned out to be just fine as it allowed for many long walks and runs, and even some surfing and swimming by a few intrepid retreatants.

We kicked off the retreat with a dinner at Long Beach Lodge, where we were all staying, and got to know each other a little before the real work began.

Tuesday’s workshops were all about character development: internal conflict, emotional draw, character stasis and misbelief, and the importance of a strong voice. After some discussion, we broke for lunch and then reconvened in the afternoon for our first round of one-on-one meetings where writers had a chance to discuss their concerns with their work in progress and brainstorm some solutions.

Everyone had a chance to get outside, do their homework (yes, there was homework), and get some writing done.

Remote writing workshop on the Northwest Coast (near Seattle and Port Angeles)

On Wednesday, we discussed plot: the elements of structure, the value of plotting guides, the importance of causality, how to avoid anecdotal writing, how to raise the stakes in your novel, and how to handle chapters and pacing. Wednesday afternoon was free, which gave the two of us a chance to exchange notes on our one-on-one meetings and to brainstorm on our own works in progress.

Thursday’s workshop began with an improv exercise that proved this bunch of writers could easily double as actors. We discussed the elements of scene, "show don’t tell," reader immersion through the use of detail, and how scenes fail. That afternoon we had our second round of one-on-one meetings, where each writer got to meet with whichever one of us they’d managed to avoid on Tuesday (haha).

February Writing Retreat on Vancouver Island (Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands) in Tofino

That evening, we had dinner together in the lodge and then went downstairs for a wonderful session of readings.

The week flew by too quickly. It was a vibrant group that continually surprised us with their observations, questions, ideas, and fabulous writing.

We loved it so much, we’re already looking ahead to next year.

Stay tuned!

Michelle Barker & David Brown


Immersion & Emotion: The Two Pillars of Storytelling

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