The Heart of Story

The secrets of long-form fiction that generates strong emotions in readers


Susan DeFreitas


Live on March 8, 2023, or watch recording


Beginning to intermediate novelists


Closed captions by Otter; transcript provided with recording

To give your novel its best shot in the marketplace, you need more than an intriguing story concept, a whiz-bang plot, and some fabulous characters—or even great writing.

You need an emotionally affecting story core.

In this presentation, Susan DeFreitas will draw upon her 12+ years as a book coach and editor to share the secrets of long-form fiction that generates strong emotions in readers—and, in the process, creates raving fans.

Emotion in fiction can feel mysterious, even magical, but it’s generated via practical nuts-and-bolts craft techniques that anyone can learn. This 90-minute presentation will draw back the curtain on what those techniques are; why they work, according to brain science; and how you can put them to work in every novel you write.

You’ll learn:

  • The biggest mistakes that writers make when trying to generate emotion on the page (and what to do instead)
  • The key to an emotionally affecting character arc
  • The critical role of scene in generating strong emotions in your reader

If you’re new to the craft of fiction, this class will help to unlock the mysteries of emotion in fiction—while also giving you a grounding on three essential levels that all stories operate on.

If you’re an intermediate fiction writer, this class will help you fine tune the way you’re generating emotion in your work at the level of the story, scene, and the prose itself.

This presentation will include before-and-after examples that show these techniques in action. After class, all participants will receive a checklist designed to diagnose issues in their novel that may keep readers from fully connecting with it on an emotional level.

Who should take this class

  • Writers planning or drafting a novel
  • Writers who have received a lot of “nice” rejections from agents and editors and are looking for a way to take their novel from good to great
  • Writers seeking a solid grounding in the fundamentals of emotionally compelling long-form fiction

This class isn’t suited for

  • People who do not write fiction
  • Writers who focus mostly on short story writing
  • Writers who write stories driven by plot rather than character
  • Some genre fiction writers (usually mystery novelists who write series) where the main character does not change at all
  • Writers who are wedded to a specific story structure that does not incorporate character arc

What’s included in all of Jane’s classes

How do I attend the live class?

This class uses Zoom webinar technology (see system requirements). You will join through your Internet-connected computer or mobile device. When you register, you will receive information via email on how to join the class. If you don’t receive it within 1 hour of registering, please contact us.

  • When: Wednesday, March 8, 2023
  • Time: 1:00–2:30 p.m. Eastern / 10:00 a.m. Pacific
  • Fee: $25

The webinar is broadcasted via the internet with live audio delivered through your computer or mobile device speakers. The visual presentation is displayed directly from the presenter’s computer to your computer screen. The Q&A is managed through a chat-style submission system with questions read and answered by the presenter for the entire class to hear.

Closed captions are provided during the live class. We use Zoom’s automated closed caption service (powered by Otter), which is about 80%+ accurate. We also use Otter AI to generate an unedited transcript, provided with the recording.

About the instructor

Susan DeFreitas is the author of the novel Hot Season, which won a Gold IPPY Award, the editor of Dispatches from Anarres: Tales in Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin, and the creator of Story Medicine—the course for writers who want to use their power as storytellers to support a more just and verdant world.

Her work has been featured in the Writer’s Chronicle, LitHub, the Huffington Post, the Utne Reader, Story, Daily Science Fiction, Oregon Humanities, and elsewhere. An independent editor and book coach, she specializes in helping writers from historically marginalized backgrounds, and those writing socially engaged fiction, break through into publishing. She divides her time between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Portland, Oregon.

This class is just tremendous!  When I started this story I had a character voice, some thematic ideas, and some snippets of scenes.  Now I have a clear path for a novel! I’m over the moon!

E. Carruthers

Your course has helped me understand the rules of long-form fiction in a much deeper way. Your knowledge of the writing process—and your ability and enthusiasm to share it—are exceptional.

A. Kenyon

This entire course is extremely helpful. My gut was already telling me where the trouble areas were, but until now I didn’t have a framework of technique to guide me in revising. Extremely valuable!

TK Greenleaf

All students receive the following

  • Access to the live class. After roughly 75 minutes, the instructor will take questions during class using in-class chat/text. The class will end after roughly 90 minutes.
  • A recording of the class—audio and video. This is especially helpful if you have a conflict with the class time or something comes up and you can’t make the session. Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for 30 days. You do not have to attend the live event to access the recordings.
  • Presentation slides. All participants receive a copy of the slide presentation in PDF form.
  • Rough transcript. We use Otter to create an automated transcript of the entire webinar, which we’ll share with you in addition to the audio and video recording.
  • Checklist: After class, all participants will receive a checklist designed to diagnose issues in their novel that may keep readers from fully connecting with it on an emotional level.

Event Attendance & Anti-Harassment Policy

We strive to provide an environment where all present—whether attendee, presenter, or staff—can feel supported. In order to ensure a welcoming event, here is what we expect from all who participate.

  • That the presenter and the presenter’s work be treated with respect by attendees and that all attendees treat each other with respect and a generosity of spirit.
  • That attendees will refrain from harassment of any sort including (but not limited to) comments or questions of a racist, homophobic, sexist/sexual, or threatening nature. This includes actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone’s ability to participate. Offenders will be disconnected from the live event.