Grumpy Old Wrtier turns 60

Grumpy teaches creative writing

The laws of storytelling

From the moment I decided to write, I knew I would have to figure out how a story works.

Some stories just don’t work – they start out exciting, they have dramatic scenes and intelligent dialogue and there seems to be some interesting idea in there somewhere – but after 20 or 50 pages, you set the book aside, promising yourself to finish it later, and turn on Netflix – and never return to it

Great writers seem to know secrets the rest of us don’t know.

I have dedicated my educational life to finding out those secrets – starting with studying the literature of the Middle Ages, when our European got its first big start.

What did I learn?

Every book and every writer is different and has different advantages and disadvantages, but stories that work – stories you want to read to the end – all have certain very basic things in common.

First, they are based on the principle of identification – the reader must identify with the main character or with one of the main characters.

Second, no matter how complex and mysterious the finished story may appear, it can be reduced to a single sentence that contains five elements that every story must have, and this simple sentence must still tell the entire story.

If you as a writer cannot reduce your story to a single sentence with these five elements and still makes the story visible, your story will almost certainly fail.

Third: In addition to these five elements come certain laws or principles without which our story cannot come to life. These principles govern certain aspects of plot and character, but also how the story relates to the reader’s life.

Any successful story, even one about zombies or trolls that appears nothing more than simple escapism, must be relevant to the real life of the reader in some way, even in an abstract or metaphorical sense.

These are the things I have learned, and I find great joy in helping authors – all of them armed with great ideas and vibrant human observations about life – pour their thoughts into a form that will resonate with the reader.

Here’s what my writers say

Everything you need to know about writing a murder mystery – in an entertaining way

For me, the mystery writing course with Eric (and his partner Astrid) was a master class. They got across everything, really everything you need to know about drama, suspense and structure of a murder mystery in an entertaining way. On top of that there were a lot of insider and practical tips that really helped me as a writer. Tiptop!

– Cornelia Härtl, “Kalte Rache,” the Lena Borowski murder mysteries, dp Verlag,

The secrets of writing murder mysteries

Heroes, villains, dramatic arcs – Eric (and his partner Astrid) reveal the secrets of writing murder mysteries. Absolutely to be recommended.
Peter Wenig, “Vergiss den Tod“ with Stephan Haas, Junius Verlag

They give you all the tools you need

Whether you’re a beginner, experienced or a pro: If you want to expand your skills as a writer, Eric Hansen (and his partner Astrid Ule) will help. They convey the craft of writing impressively and comprehensively, and if you need help developing your material with focus and determination, the best place to do it is in their “guided writing” groups. They give you all the tools you need to work on your project in a structured way and with great joy. At the same time, with specific questions and constructive criticism they help you find and use your own solutions, your own path, your own voice. I can heartily recommend every one of their courses and groups

– Alexandra Cedrino, “Die Galerie am Potsdamer Platz”, “Zeitenwende am Potsdamer Platz” and “Wiedersehen am Potsdamer Platz”, HarperCollinsGermany

A perfect duo

A perfect duo – with their ingenuity and heartfelt way, they cannot be beat.

– Wiebke Griebe, author, murder mysteries

What makes Anglo-American storytelling so successful?

Why is there no Italian Harry Potter?

No German James Bond?

Why do 100 of the 136 novels that are known to have sold over 10 million copies worldwide come from the English-speaking world? What does Hollywood know that other film industries don’t?

Why does it seem like the Really Big Writers — from Shakespeare to Joanne K. Rowling – always come from the English-speaking world?

I’ve asked myself these questions since I began writing fiction and non-fiction in two languages – English and German – and realized how different they are from each other.

I think I know the answer.

First, the English language is structurally very simple – it’s always subject, verb, object. That’s a story – the hero does something and there is a result. In that order. Germans don’t have to speak in that order: Subject, verb, object. They can form their sentences any way they want.

And very often, that’s what they do when they tell stories: Instead of hero-action-result, they start anywhere and end anywhere. As a result, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what the story is about. You can write great literature like that, but not Harry Potter.

At the same time, literature in England was a business venture from the beginning. While literary geniuses in other countries – like Goethe in Germany – wrote mainly for aristocratic patrons, English writers like Shakespeare wrote for money – to be successful, you had to appeal to a broad audience, both highly educated and under-educated. While Rilke appeals mainly to an educated elite, everyone loves J.R.R. Tolkien.

Starting with the literature of the Middle Ages, I have studied storytelling in many forms and cultures, always asking myself: How does a story work?

And I have been able to isolate 13 principles that all successful storytellers from Homer to Shakespeare to Stan Lee have followed, from plot structure to the elements that make up a hero to the factors that make any story a recognizable and and relevant and recognizable mirror of the reality of the readers’ lives.

If you are trying to write a successful story, – as novel or screenplay – you need to understand and practice these principles.

Here’s what my writers say

A deep understanding of plot and story-building

Eric’s writing course deepened my understanding in the areas of plot and story-building. The class was characterized by an uncomplicated and open atmosphere. And it was a lot of fun!

– Nicole Fröhlich, “Der Club der wütenden Fünf,” Verlag

They don't stop until every problem is solved

Eric (and his partner Astrid) are the best thing that can happen to you if you’re learning to write. I don’t know any other writing teachers that delve into the texts as intensively and with as much detail. They work out every weakness in the plot, every contradiction in the character structure, every hiccup in prose and rhythm. And the best thing is: They don’t stop until every problem is solved.

– Katja Holcer, Author for children’s and YA books (Agent: Birgit Arteaga,

They don’t teach, they share their knowledge

Eric (and his partner Astrid) don’t teach, they share their knowledge. They are concrete in their Information, constructive in their criticism and exceedingly entertaining when working with you.

– Ulrike Paschek, “Medusenliebe,” Gmeiner Verlag.

A guide through a secret science

I had experience with scripts, so I thought it would be not problem to write a novel. How wrong I was. Writing a novel is like a secret science, but do not fear – Eric T Hansen (and his partner Astrid Ule) will guide your through this science with heart and efficiency.

– Elisa Iven, “Sad Tits – Kishas Chaos am Vorabend ihres Fame”

Why, where and what I teach

When Covid reared its ugly head and the bookstores closed and publishers started cancelling books, I turned to teaching creative writing online.

Soon I discovered what a blessing it was for me – it was beautiful and joyous to be able to give young, ambitious writers willing to learn principles they really needed and could really use.

Plus, I got to think more about what I knew about writing and learned new ways to formulate and teach it.

Today I teach online courses for the German school Text-Manufaktur (you can check out my courses here), plus I also offer individual coaching by the hour and coaching in groups, where I coach a half dozen writers in one group and they have the added bonus of giving each other feedback.

Because I live in Berlin and my reputation as a writer is limited to Germany, I teach and coach very little in English, but if you are interested, drop me aline ad we’ll see if I can offer something you can use.

Here are a few courses I give

I teach creative writing

The principles that will make your story sucessful: The 13 Laws of Storytelling

I teach creative writing

From Murder to Mystery: How to Write Crime Fiction from start to finish

I teach creative writing

Putting the Reader in the Story: The Secrets of Dramatic Writing

I teach creative writing

The Plot-Specialist – Let me help you build a successful outline in individual coaching sessions