What is Creative Writing? | An Introduction for Students
But what exactly is it all about? And if you’re new to the subject, how can you get started?
Creative writing is all about using your imagination and creativity to express ideas and thoughts in a way which is personal to you. Quite simply, it’s about adding your own ‘flair’ to writing, going beyond the traditional boundaries of academic or other technical forms of literature.
Learn more about what creative writing is, what the different types are, as well as some top tips on how to get started - all with this helpful guide and introduction to creative writing.
What is creative writing?
As the name suggests, creative writing is a form of writing that goes beyond the traditional realms of normal, professional, academic or technical forms of writing.
Instead, it encompasses a number of different genres and styles across a whole range of fields of both fictional and non-fiction writing; storytelling, playwriting, poetry, prose, journalistic, and more.
Though the definition can be quite vague, creative writing can, for the most part, be considered as any type of writing that is original and expressive of oneself. Typically, it can be identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, focusing on elements such as character development, narrative and plot, infusing its structure with imagination, invention and story.
In this sense, creative writing can technically be considered any writing of contemporary, original composition - it's bound by no standard conventions and uses a whole range of elements in its craft.
In an academic setting, creative writing is typically divided into fiction, poetry, or scriptwriting classes, with a focus on writing in an original style, not defined by pre-existing structures and genres.
What are the different types of creative writing?
Creative writing comes in many forms, encompassing a number of genres and styles. There are lots of different types of creative writing, which can be categorised as fiction or non-fiction. Some of the most popular being:
- Fiction: novels, novellas, short stories, etc.
- Poetry and spoken word
- Personal essays
What makes a good piece of creative writing?
First and foremost, it’s important to note that there is no pre-defined description of what it means to create a ‘good’ piece of creative writing. As the very name suggests, creative writing is an imaginative process, created by the individual with all their quirks and personalities.
Creative writing doesn’t fit one set genre and therefore there will never be an umbrella definition to describe the ‘perfect’ piece. Just think about a Gothic short story and then compare it to the features of a great Romantic poem - the two are so very different - it wouldn’t be unfair to judge them together.
However, with that being said, there are a few general principles that you can follow to make your creative writing as strong as it can be - by making it as authentic and true to you as possible:
Know your audience - All great stories begin with a target audience in mind - because it’s exactly what you need to know in order to really tailor your writing and connect with them. Therefore, any creative writer should begin their writing by plotting out exactly who they want to read their work. Once you have this in mind, your writing will naturally begin to take direction and flow in a way that seems appropriate to your audience.
Write what you know - Quite often, the best stories are those which we can connect to and relate in one or another way to our own lives. Or, they’re stories which seem so authentic that you could imagine it to be about the writer’s own life. Now, this doesn’t mean that you quite literally have to write about your life, but drawing on knowledge you have about different elements of our lives to give your story some authenticity and more believability.
Creativity is key - Creativity is one of the most important elements of creative writing. It’s what sets you apart from other pieces of writing in your genre. Of course, this doesn't demand that you write a tale about a totally fantastical and mythical world with unique creatures - but simply use your creativity to think a little outside the box and put a unique twist on things; using literary devices like metaphors, alliteration, and varied sentence structure to make your work unique and interesting.
Push your imagination - One of the great things about creative writing is that there is no definition or rules on ‘how’ to write. It’s a much more subjective genre, and one which relies heavily on your own interpretations. Therefore, you should push your imagination to the limits to see what the end result could be. Some of the most interesting pieces of literature are thought-provoking or make us question the writing or world around us - where could your story take us?
Plot a loose story arc - Despite the loose bounds of creative writing, it is still advisable to plot a loose story arc for any piece of literature you create. Story arcs are critical at giving your writing direction and purpose, helping you to write the whole piece at a good pace, without writing any superfluous content or ‘waffle.’ Follow your story arc, and your writing will have a strong structure, pace and direction - keeping your readers more engaged.
What are some techniques used in creative writing?
To make their writing stand out, writers often employ several creative writing techniques and literary devices, including:
Character development - The process of creating a well-rounded, realistic character with depth, personality, and clear goals or motivations.
Plot development - The story of your piece of writing - how it develops, unfolds, and moves along in time.
**Point of view **- The perspective from which a narrative is told. It indicates who is telling the story and how the information is conveyed to the reader. Quite often writers will play with the point of view of the central character or protagonist to trick the reader and twist their perspective.
Dialogue - Refers to the speech and conversations characters use to speak to one another. Dialogue and the language choices a character makes can be pivotal in helping define their personality.
Literary devices - Such as metaphors, similes and alliteration to make creative writing more imaginative and descriptive. These are used in a myriad of ways by writers to make their writing more vivid, interesting and engaging.
Can creative writing be taught?
Of course! Creative writing can be taught, and is a very popular subject for university students, and for those who attend our summer courses .
Those who pursue the subject of Creative Writing will typically study a variety of texts from different periods of time to learn more about the different genres of writing within the field. They’ll become familiar with some of the leading creative writers from generations past to present, as well as some lesser-known and emerging writers in the industry.
Inspired by what they’ve learnt in the classroom, it’s not uncommon for Creative Writing students to also participate in regular workshops and scratch sessions, where they bring a piece of their writing along to class and have it read by other students and the tutor. They’ll leave with constructive feedback on how to improve their writing, or recommendations of other works which they may want to read to take influence from.
How to start creative writing
If you’re interested in getting those creative juices flowing and improving your writing craft, read some of our tips below on how to start creative writing :
Read as much as you can - For creative writers, inspiration comes from a whole range of sources, but most commonly, from other writers. There’s some excellent examples of creative writing throughout history that all writers should be inspired by. Read a variety of genres by different authors to get a real feel for what type of writing you may want to do. Need some inspiration? Check out our blog: 15 Classic Books to Read
Start journaling - Starting a journal can really help to unleash your inner creativity. Getting into the habit of writing each day about literally anything that’s preoccupied you that day will help you practice the art of writing. The more regular you journal, the more you’ll build your confidence. You never know, you could even find your next great idea from something you’ve journaled about!
Attend a Creative Writing summer course - If you’re just starting out as a creative writer and looking to collaborate, share ideas with others and workshop your writing, then joining a creative writing summer school could be a great option. Our creative writing summer courses are designed to help you extend your creative writing toolkit; you’ll analyse some of the industry’s greatest writers, as well as workshop some of your own writing with your peers.
Practice using literary devices - Literary devices, such as metaphors, similes and rhyme can really help you write more vividly and create really descriptive, imaginative scenes. Practice using them regularly and you’ll soon watch your own creative writing start to flourish. Need some ideas to help you get practising? Look around your house and pick a random object. Then, practice using 5 literary devices to describe that same object - see where your creativity can take you!
Write, write, write! - When it comes to how to start creative writing, one of the biggest pieces of advice we can offer is to pick up your pen or laptop, and start writing. Whether you have a single conversation starter for a character, or a complete narrative arc, you will only begin your creative writing journey when you physically do it. Even if you have no idea on what to write - look for writing prompt inspiration from all around you. The more you practice unleashing your creativity, the easier it will be to write over longer periods of time.
Creative writing is an expressive form of literature; one which demands you to use your own creativity, imagination and story to portray a particular message, emotion, or plot. It defies the traditional bounds of other forms of writing and is completely subjective to our own preferences and experiences.
For those looking to get started with creative writing, it’s important to really immerse yourself in the world of literature, reading and writing as much as you can - and even workshopping your work where possible. Creative writing summer schools and evening classes are a great way to meet other like-minded students, share knowledge and feedback, and really upskill yourself.
Study Creative Writing in Oxford or Cambridge
Interested in joining a Creative Writing summer course? Learn tried and tested writing techniques from some of Oxford and Cambridge's greatest published tutors on our 2-week English Literature and Creative Writing summer course .
Whether you’re new to the subject or looking to advance your skill set, our programme will help develop your own writing voice and style, while learning crucial elements of structure to help your work flow. You’ll learn from our expert tutors - made up of literary critics, authors, and university lecturers - in either the historic city of Oxford or Cambridge .
It’s the most influential learning environment, with the most inspiring tutors - guaranteed to get your creative juices flowing!
Contact us to find out more or apply today to reserve your place.
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What is creative writing? Get to grips with the subject fundamentals and improve your skill with our introduction to creative writing.
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FORMATTING + DESIGN
Creative Writing: How to Get Started with Creative Writing [+ 9 Exercises]
Posted on Mar 6, 2023
by Bella Rose Pope
Creative writing is one of those skills you can eternally get better at, but often suck at when you start…
I’ve been there. I’ve so been there.
Now, we’re not saying your creative writing is bad necessarily, but just that if you want to continue to push yourself in this industry, you’ll need some work since literature is more competitive now than it ever has been.
You might not like to face that truth, but it is indeed a truth everyone who wants to write and publish successfully has to face.
I’ll go into more detail about that in a little bit but every writer out there needs some writing tips to help them get better.
And one of the best ways to get better at creative writing is to first learn and understand the craft of it, and then challenge yourself by completing writing exercises .
Because when your time comes to publish, you want a high-quality final product in order to actually sell your book and acquire raving fans.
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Here’s what you’ll learn about creative writing:
- What is creative writing?
- Creative writing topics
- Elements of creative writing
- Examples of creative writing
- 9 powerful creative writing exercises
What is Creative Writing?
Creative writing is a form of writing where creativity is at the forefront of its purpose through using imagination, creativity, and innovation in order to tell a story through strong written visuals with an emotional impact, like in poetry writing , short story writing , novel writing , and more.
It’s often seen as the opposite of journalistic or academic writing.
When it comes to writing, there are many different types. As you already know, all writing does not read in the same way.
Creative writing uses senses and emotions in order to create a strong visual in the reader’s mind whereas other forms of writing typically only leave the reader with facts and information instead of emotional intrigue.
It can be a book series or a single installation, the factors that make up creative writing have more to do with how it sits with the reader artistically.
What are the Elements of Creative Writing?
In order to get better at creative writing, you have to understand the elements of what makes writing a book great.
You can’t build a car engine without understanding how each part plays a role, right…?
That’s the same case with writing.
And just a note, this is all stuff we cover , and you get to talk about 1-on-1 with your coach when you join Self-Publishing School .
Here are the elements that make up creative writing and why each is just as important as the other.
What differentiates creative writing and other forms of writing the most is the fact that the former always has a plot of some sort – and a unique one.
Yes, remakes are also considered creative writing, however, most creative writers create their own plot formed by their own unique ideas . Without having a plot, there’s no story.
And without a story, you’re really just writing facts on paper, much like a journalist. Learn how to plot your novel and you’ll open up the possibility of writing at a higher level without the need to find your story as much.
Characters are necessary for creative writing. While you can certainly write a book creatively using the second person point of view (which I’ll cover below), you still have to develop the character in order to tell the story.
Character development can be defined as the uncovering of who a character is and how they change throughout the duration of your story. From start to end, readers should be able to understand your main characters deeply.
Almost every story out there has an underlying theme or message – even if the author didn’t necessarily intend for it to. But creative writing needs that theme or message in order to be complete.
That’s part of the beauty of this form of art. By telling a story, you can also teach lessons.
When you’re reading a newspaper, you don’t often read paragraphs of descriptions depicting the surrounding areas of where the events took place. Visual descriptions are largely saved for creative writing.
You need them in order to help the reader understand what the surroundings of the characters look like.
Show don’t tell writing pulls readers in and allows them to imagine themselves in the characters’ shoes – which is the reason people read.
Point of View
There are a few points of views you can write in. That being said, the two that are most common in creative writing are first person and third person .
- First Person – In this point of view, the narrator is actually the main character. This means that you will read passages including, “I” and understand that it is the main character narrating the story.
- Second Person – Most often, this point of view isn’t used in creative writing, but rather instructional writing – like this blog post. When you see the word “you” and the narrator is speaking directly to you, it’s second person point of view.
- Third person limited’s narrator uses “he/she/they” when speaking about the character you’re following. They know that character’s inner thoughts and feelings but nobody else’s. It’s much like first person, but instead of the character telling the story, a narrator takes their place.
- Third person multiple is the same as limited except that the narrator now knows the inner thoughts and feelings of several characters.
- The last, third person omniscient, is when the narrator still uses “he/she/they” but has all of the knowledge. They know everything about everyone.
While non-creative writing can have dialogue (like in interviews), that dialogue is not used in the same way as it is in creative writing. Creative writing (aside from silent films) requires dialogue to support the story.
Your characters should interact with one another in order to further the plot and develop each character other more.
Part of what makes creative writing creative is the way you choose to craft the vision in your mind.
And that means creative writing uses more anecdotes, metaphors , similes , figures of speech , and other figurative language in order to paint a vivid image in the reader’s mind .
All writing can have emotional appeal. However, it’s the entire goal of creative writing. Your job as a writer is to make people feel how you want them to by telling them a story.
Creative Writing Examples
Since creative writing covers such a wide variety of writing, we wanted to break down the different types of creative writing out there to help you make sense of it. Y ou may know that novels are considered creative writing, but what about memoirs?
Here are examples of creative writing:
- Short stories
- TV show scripts
- Movie scripts
9 Creative Writing Exercises to Improve Your Writing
Writing is just like any other skill. You have to work at it in order to get better.
It’s also much like other skills because the more you do it, the stronger you become in it. That’s why exercising your creative writing skills is so important.
How do you start creative writing?
The best authors out there, including Stephen King, recommend writing something every single day . These writing exercises will help you accomplish that and improve your talent immensely.
#1 – Describe your day with creative writing
This is one of my favorite little exercises to keep my writing sharp and in shape.
Just like with missing gym sessions, the less you write, the more of that skill you lose. Hannah Lee Kidder, a very talented author and Youtuber, gave me this writing exercise and I have used it many times.
Creative Writing Exercise:
All you have to do is sit down and describe your day – starting with waking up – as if you were writing it about another person. Use your creative writing skills to bring life to even the dullest moments, like showering or brushing your teeth.
#2 – Description depiction
If you’re someone who struggles with writing descriptions or you just want to get better in general, this exercise will help you do just that – and quickly.
In order to improve your descriptions, you have to write them with a specific intention.
With this exercise, the goal is to write your description with the goal of showing the reader as much as you can about your character without ever mentioning them at all.
#3 – Edit your old writing
Believe it or not, editing does count as writing and can actually sharpen those creative writing skill more than you think.
It can be a little scary to pull up a story you wrote last week or even two years ago and tear it apart. But that’s exactly what I want you to do.
Check out this video of me editing my old writing in order to replace weak verbs with stronger, better ones to get a taste of what this can look like and how it can help you get better.
#4 – Voice v ariations
One of my favorite parts of writing is giving unique voices to each character . I believe that’s what truly brings them to life.
Their dialogue as the power to pull readers in, or push them out of the book completely.
Obviously, you want the former.
During this creative writing exercise, your focus will be to pick 4 different emotional states and write dialogue and narrative of how your character feels and interprets those feelings.
For this one, craft a character in your mind. It can be one you already created or a completely new one.
Choose your 4 emotional states – and get creative. You can choose sadness, anger, happiness, and excitement BUT you can also go a bit further and choose to use drunk, flirty, terrified, and eager.
After you have 4 emotional states, write one page of each using dialogue and narrative your character would use.
#5 – Single senses
Creating strong visuals is one of the most powerful ways to become a great creative writer. In fact, practicing this will help you craft books that really hook readers.
This exercise’s goal is to help you develop writing the senses in ways that not only make sense, but are also imaginative and unique.
#6 – Dialogue destruction
During this exercise, you will learn a lot about how to write a scene using entirely dialogue.
Now, this isn’t something you’ll always do in your writing, but it’s very important to know how to move a scene forward using dialogue if you need to.
This will also help you understand how to show and not tell in creative writing.
To start, choose a scene you wrote previously that has little to no dialogue, but is still very important.
Next, rewrite the entire thing using dialogue (including dialogue tags and body language descriptions). You will quickly become better at using dialogue to show and not tell.
#7 – Tell the origin story of the Tooth Fairy
This writing exercise will really help you think creatively about something a large part of the world knows about.
However, you have to think of a very unique, interesting way of presenting this common idea. The purpose of this is to help you dig deeper within your own story and plot in order to come up with the very best, most unique ideas – because that is what will stand out in your book.
Begin this story like you would any other. Develop who the very first Tooth Fairy is and understand their character. Then, start creating a backstory that coincides with how they ended up becoming the tooth fairy.
Write this in full, ending with the Tooth Fairy taking their first tooth.
#8 – Thematic attic
This is a fun one! The idea behind this creative writing exercise is to focus on interpreting themes through story.
Since all creative writing has an underlying theme behind it, it’s really important for you to be able to accurately depict that theme throughout the story you’re telling.
Otherwise, it can get lost. Not knowing the theme can often leave readers feeling unsatisfied – and rightfully so.
For this exercise, pick an overarching theme you want to focus on. This can be anything from equality to the difference between right and wrong.
Next, craft a short story with the setting being and do your best to make sure that theme shines through
Get creative! Your attic can even contain a portal to another dimension if you really want it to.
#9 – Break language barriers
This isn’t quite what you think it is. So no, we will not be creating new languages with this exercise.
Instead, we’ll be working on using unique language to describe very common, everyday occurrences and experiences.
One of the beauties of creative writing is that you have the power to change the way someone sees the world. You can make it more appealing and special to them – if you know how.
This exercise will help you develop the skill of using a unique narrative within your story.
In this creative writing exercise, you’ll start by reading. You can read a new book or even some of your old writing.
Highlight or copy sentences or paragraphs you think are very common experiences that most everyone in the world knows of. For example: the sunset, brushing your teeth, looking up at the sky.
Your job is to rewrite these experiences in the most unique way you can using visuals that you don’t normally see in writing.<
Here’s an example:
BEFORE – The sun set beyond the trees.
AFTER – The trees tucked the sun in for the night.
Bella Rose Pope
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Creative writing: You can take classes in it, you can earn a degree in it, but the only things you really need to do it are your creative thinking and writing tools. Creative writing is the act of putting your imagination on a page. It’s artistic expression in words; it’s writing without the constraints that come with other kinds of writing like persuasive or expository.
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What is creative writing?
Creative writing is writing meant to evoke emotion in a reader by communicating a theme. In storytelling (including literature, movies, graphic novels, creative nonfiction, and many video games), the theme is the central meaning the work communicates.
Take the movie (and the novel upon which it’s based) Jaws , for instance. The story is about a shark that terrorizes a beach community and the men tasked with killing the shark. But the film’s themes include humanity’s desire to control nature, tradition vs. innovation, and how potential profit can drive people in power to make dangerous, even fatal, decisions.
A theme isn’t the only factor that defines creative writing. Here are other components usually found in creative writing:
- Connecting, or at least attempting to connect, with the reader’s emotions
- Writing from a specific point of view
- A narrative structure can be complex or simple and serves to shape how the reader interacts with the content.
- Using imaginative and/or descriptive language
Creative writing typically uses literary devices like metaphors and foreshadowing to build a narrative and express the theme, but this isn’t a requirement. Neither is dialogue, though you’ll find it used in most works of fiction. Creative writing doesn’t have to be fictional, either. Dramatized presentations of true stories, memoirs, and observational humor pieces are all types of creative writing.
What isn’t creative writing?
In contrast, research papers aren’t creative writing. Neither are analytical essays, persuasive essays , or other kinds of academic writing . Similarly, personal and professional communications aren’t considered creative writing—so your emails, social media posts, and official company statements are all firmly in the realm of non-creative writing. These kinds of writing convey messages, but they don’t express themes. Their goals are to inform and educate, and in some cases collect information from, readers. But even though they can evoke emotion in readers, that isn’t their primary goal.
But what about things like blog posts? Or personal essays? These are broad categories, and specific pieces in these categories can be considered creative writing if they meet the criteria listed above. This blog post, for example, is not a piece of creative writing as it aims to inform, but a blog post that walks its reader through a first-person narrative of an event could be deemed creative writing.
Types of creative writing
Creative writing comes in many forms. These are the most common:
Novels originated in the eighteenth century . Today, when people think of books, most think of novels.
A novel is a fictional story that’s generally told in 60,000 to 100,000 words, though they can be as short as 40,000 words or go beyond 100,000.
Stories that are too short to be novels, but can’t accurately be called short stories, are often referred to as novellas. Generally, a story between 10,000 and 40,000 words is considered a novella. You might also run into the term “ novelette ,” which is used to refer to stories that clock in between 7,500 and 19,000 words.
Short stories are fictional stories that fall generally between 5,000 and 10,000 words. Like novels, they tell complete stories and have at least one character, some sort of conflict, and at least one theme.
When a story is less than 1,000 words, it’s categorized as a work of flash fiction.
Poetry can be hard to define because as a genre, it’s so open-ended. A poem doesn’t have to be any specific length. It doesn’t have to rhyme. There are many different kinds of poems from cultures all over the world, like sonnets, haikus, sestinas, blank verse, limericks, and free verse.
The rules of poetry are generally flexible . . . unless you’re writing a specific type of poem, like a haiku, that has specific rules around the number of lines or structure. But while a poem isn’t required to conform to a specific length or formatting, or use perfect grammar , it does need to evoke its reader’s emotions, come from a specific point of view, and express a theme.
And when you set a poem to music, you’ve got a song.
Plays, TV scripts, and screenplays
Plays are meant to be performed on stage. Screenplays are meant to be made into films, and TV scripts are meant to be made into television programs. Scripts for videos produced for other platforms fit into this category as well.
Plays, TV scripts, and screenplays have a lot in common with novels and short stories. They tell stories that evoke emotion and express themes. The difference is that they’re meant to be performed rather than read and as such, they tend to rely much more on dialogue because they don’t have the luxury of lengthy descriptive passages. But scriptwriters have more than just dialogue to work with; writing a play or script also involves writing stage or scene directions.
Each type of script has its own specific formatting requirements.
Creative nonfiction covers all the kinds of creative writing that aren’t fiction. Here are some examples:
- Personal essays: A personal essay is a true story told through a narrative framework. Often, recollections of events are interspersed with insights about those events and your personal interpretations and feelings about them in this kind of essay.
- Literary journalism: Think of literary journalism as journalism enhanced by creative writing techniques. These are the kinds of stories often published in outlets like The New Yorker and Salon. Literary journalism pieces report on factual events but do so in a way that makes them feel like personal essays and short stories.
- Memoirs: Memoirs are to personal essays what novels are to short stories. In other words, a memoir is a book-length collection of personal memories, often centering around a specific story, that often works opinions, epiphanies, and emotional insights into the narrative.
- Autobiographies: An autobiography is a book you write about yourself and your life. Often, autobiographies highlight key events and may focus on one particular aspect of the author’s life, like her role as a tech innovator or his career as a professional athlete. Autobiographies are often similar in style to memoirs, but instead of being a collection of memories anchored to specific events, they tend to tell the author’s entire life story in a linear narrative.
- Humor writing: Humor writing comes in many forms, like standup comedy routines, political cartoons, and humorous essays.
- Lyric essays: In a lyric essay, the writer breaks conventional grammar and stylistic rules when writing about a concept, event, place, or feeling. In this way, lyric essays are like essay-length poems. The reason they’re considered essays, and not long poems, is that they generally provide more direct analysis of the subject matter than a poem would.
Tips for writing creatively
Give yourself time and space for creative writing.
It’s hard to write a poem during your lunch break or work on your memoir between calls. Don’t make writing more difficult for yourself by trying to squeeze it into your day. Instead, block off time to focus solely on creative writing, ideally in a distraction-free environment like your bedroom or a coffee shop.
>>Read More: How to Create Your Very Own Writing Retreat
Get to know yourself as a writer
The more you write, the more in tune you’ll become with your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. You’ll identify the kinds of characters, scenes, language, and pieces you like writing best and determine where you struggle the most. Understanding what kind of writer you are can help you decide which kinds of projects to pursue.
Once you know which kinds of writing you struggle with, do those kinds of writing. If you only focus on what you’re good at, you’ll never grow as a writer. Challenge yourself to write in a different genre or try a completely new type of writing. For example, if you’re a short story writer, give poetry or personal essays a try.
Need help getting started? Give one (or all!) of these 20 fun writing prompts a try .
Learn from other writers
There are lots of resources out there about creative writing. Read and watch them. If there’s a particular writer whose work you enjoy, seek out interviews with them and personal essays they’ve written about their creative processes.
>>Read More: How to Be a Master Storyteller—Tips from 5 Experts
Don’t limit yourself to big-name writers, either. Get involved in online forums, social media groups, and if possible, in-person groups for creative writers. By doing this, you’re positioning yourself to learn from writers from all different walks of life . . . and help other writers, too.
I wrote something. Where do I go from here?
Give yourself a pat on the back: You did it! You finished a piece of creative writing—something many attempt, but not quite as many achieve.
What comes next is up to you. You can share it with your friends and family, but you don’t have to. You can post it online or bring it to an in-person writing group for constructive critique. You can even submit it to a literary journal or an agent to potentially have it published, but if you decide to take this route, we recommend working with an editor first to make it as polished as possible.
Some writers are initially hesitant to share their work with others because they’re afraid their work will be stolen. Although this is a possibility, keep in mind that you automatically hold the copyright for any piece you write. If you’d like, you can apply for copyright protection to give yourself additional legal protection against plagiarizers, but this is by no means a requirement.
Write with originality
Grammarly can’t help you be more creative, but we can help you hone your writing so your creativity shines as brightly as possible. Once you’ve written your piece, Grammarly can catch any mistakes you made and suggest strong word choices that accurately express your message.
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What Is Creative Writing? Simple Definition and Tips
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It can seem difficult to narrow down the answer to the question, “What is creative writing?” Since creative writing encompasses many types of writing, exploring examples helps define this art form. Use the definition of creative writing and creative writing tips to learn how to become a creative writer.
Creative Writing Definition
The true definition of creative writing is:
original writing that expresses ideas and thoughts in an imaginative way
It's the "art of making things up" or putting a creative splash on history, as in creative nonfiction. In any instance, creative writing makes you step out of reality and into a new realm inspired by your own imagination. With creative writing you're able to express feelings and emotions instead of cold, hard facts, as you would in academic writing .
Creative Writing Types and Categories
Because it is such a broad topic, the best way to define creative writing is to browse a list of things that are and are not considered creative writing.
Types of Creative Writing
Your imagination starts to flow when you engage in creative writing. The majority of writing, by far, is creative. With it, you can pretend anything you want and help a potential reader do the same. Different types of creative writing are found in these writing categories:
- short stories
- television scripts
Types of Writing That Aren’t Creative Writing
Any type of writing that is very formal, precise and reliant upon facts isn’t considered creative writing. Forms of writing that are not considered creative writing include:
- academic writing
- technical writing
Creative Writing Tips and Techniques
If you feel you have a story inside you, you probably do. Why not let it out? It may seem as simple as sitting down, pulling up a blank document and letting it all flow, but sometimes that blank document can be intimidating. Use some creative writing techniques and tips to help you get creative.
Be an Avid Reader
Reading all types of writing can spark ideas in your own imagination. The more you read fiction and creative nonfiction, the more you'll naturally adopt their natural rhythm and flow.
Keep an Idea Book
Inspiration for creative writing can strike at any moment. Be prepared with a notebook dedicated to ideas or even a notes app on your phone. When you periodically browse your ideas, you might find that combining a couple of seemingly unrelated ideas sparks a new piece of writing.
Ask What if Questions
To tap into your creativity, ask yourself questions that start with “What if?” For example, if you know you want to write about a cat, you might ask yourself “What if the cat is best friends with a mouse?” or “What if the cat doesn’t look like an ordinary cat?”
Write with Abandon
If you have an idea for a story, sit down and start typing, without editing as you go. Just let the ideas flow out of your mind. After the story is out of your head and onto the screen, then you can consider revising.
Read Your Work Out Loud
Even after you've gotten it all out, it's still not time to edit. Read your idea out loud to hear how it sounds. See which scenes jump out at you. Remember which bits of dialogue are particularly powerful.
Create a Scene List
You might want to outline your scenes after you've written that first draft of your story. This helps you organize the plot line and make sure it flows.
Proofread and Edit Out Fluff
Now it's time to proofread and edit. Even though your work is meant to be creative and original, it should still follow standard writing rules. While imagination is key to creative writing, you still need to remove any "fluffy" parts of the story.
Examples of Creative Writing
At its core, creative writing is a form of entertainment. It's also a form of art found in most of your favorite TV sitcoms, movies, books, poems, and other mediums.
Poems provide great examples of creative writing. In fact, they're almost exclusively emotional and imaginative. This excerpt from Lewis Carroll's " The Walrus and the Carpenter " is an example of creative writing because it is not based in fact and uses a lot of imagination.
If seven maids with seven mops Swept it for half a year, Do you suppose,' the Walrus said, That they could get it clear?' I doubt it,' said the Carpenter, And shed a bitter tear.
If you'd like to try your hand at a poem, check out these tips on writing poems .
Short Story Example
Short stories can be narrative, funny, mysterious, satirical, fantasy, or historical. Often stories include a lesson for the reader. This excerpt from Margaret Barrington's "Village Without Men," from The Glass Shore anthology (edited by Sinéad Gleeson) is a great example of using creativity to evoke emotion.
Weary and distraught, the women listened to the storm as it raged around the houses. The wind screamed and howled. It drove suddenly against the doors with heavy lurchings. It tore at the straw ropes that anchored the thatched roofs to the ground. It rattled and shook the small windows. It sent the rain in narrow streams under the door, through the piled-up sacks, to form large puddles on the hard, stamped, earthen floors.
Novels are certainly creative. Readers look forward to dipping in and out of new worlds created in novels, be they fantasy or realistic. This excerpt from Dark Witch , by famed romance writer Nora Roberts features a real place, Ireland, with a fictional character and story.
The cold carved bone deep, fueled by the lash of the wind, iced by the drowning rain gushing from a bruised, bloated sky. Such was Iona Sheehan's welcome to Ireland. She loved it. How could she not? She asked herself as she hugged her arms to her chest and drank in the wild, soggy view from her window. She was standing in a castle. She'd sleep in a castle that night. An honest-to-God Irish castle in the heart of the west.
Story Starters for Creative Writing
Creative writing exercises can help jumpstart your imagination. If you’re still not sure where to start, creative writing prompts give you a topic or opening sentence to get creative with.
Start your own creative writing with one of these prompts:
- You're sitting at your desk staring blankly at the computer screen. Just then, a piece of paper floats down and lands in front of you. It says, "Tomorrow will be your last day."
- She entered her parents home to clear out their possessions. What was she going to do with all their belongings? When she got to their safe, she keyed in the code, opened it up, and saw the most disturbing picture inside.
- She got off the plane with only her tattered Louis Vuitton tote and one small suitcase. She had enough cash to start her new life in Edinburgh but absolutely no idea where to go once she left the airport.
- When he awoke, everyone in the apartment complex was gone. The parking lot was empty. The front gates were open. As a matter of fact, the typically busy roads were completely abandoned and eerily silent.
- He liked his solitude. It didn't matter that others called him a recluse and a hermit. But, when he saw her move in across the hall, he couldn't help but wander over to say hello. When he saw her face, he was astonished. She looked just like...
- She whistled into the wind to call up her dragon. When he arrived, she hopped up on the balcony railing, saddled her ride, and set sail for...
Creative Writing for Life
Creative writing is whatever you want it to be, so long as it's not a completely factual story. A story can blossom from virtually anything because being creative and pretending is part of being human. You can use creative writing to express your own feelings or to entertain others. Now that you know how to compose a piece of creative writing, explore tips for engaging readers .
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The term creative writing means imaginative writing, or writing as an art. The primary concern of creative writing is not with factual information or with the more routine forms of communication ( see writing,communication by ). It does, however, use many of the same skills.
A novel, for example, may contain much sociological, political, or psychological information. Scholars may study it for that information, as Sigmund Freud studied literature for accounts of dreams and emotional states. No true novel, however, is written to communicate facts. Like other forms of creative writing it attempts to produce in its reader the pleasure of an aesthetic experience. It tries to uncover form and meaning in the turmoil of love, hate, violence, tedium, habit, and brute fact through which people flounder from day to day.
The novelist and short-story writer John Cheever, when asked why he wrote, did not say, “To show how the upper middle class lives in Connecticut.” He said, “To try to make sense out of my life.” Whether it takes the form of poem, short story, novel, play, personal essay, or even biography or history, creative writing is certain to involve some search for meaning, a measure of wonder and discovery, and a degree of personal involvement in the result.
Expository Versus Creative Writing
Unlike the expository writer, the creative writer uses language plastically, for its suggestiveness and power of sensuous evocation. The difference between the expository writer and the creative writer, however, goes deeper than the use of language.
Joseph Conrad wrote, in Notes on Life and Letters , “To have the gift of words is no such great matter. A man furnished with a long-range weapon does not become a hunter or a warrior by the mere possession of a fire-arm; many other qualities of character and temperament are necessary. . . .” Robert Frost remarked, in a similar mood, that “all that can be done with words is soon told,” and that poetry is “merely one more art of having something to say.”
A Creative Writer Has Something to Say
Any student with ambitions to be a literary artist is likely to have something he wants to say. He will probably discover for himself that poems in which words are manipulated for their color or sound alone tinkle emptily and abstractly in the mind. He will learn that shallow or conventional stories are exposed rather than supported by a self-conscious, “poetic,” or elevated style. A mannered style is more often than not a sign that a writer has not much to say. A writer and his style are inseparable.
If a writer is not a little dangerous, both to himself and to others, he is not living up to his calling. To live up to himself, to find what it is he must say, and to find ways of saying it, a writer must know in what he believes. Because the use of words is a power easily abused and because a writer must make himself heard against a clamor of television, radio, amusement parks, highways—the many distractions of a civilization incessantly busy—he must be both humble and assertive. Unless he can get himself noticed, he is nothing; and if he gets himself noticed by cheating or out of mere vanity, he is less than nothing.
The prayer of anyone hoping to make himself into a writer should be: “Lord, let me grow into someone who has something to say! Let me be one of those that Henry James speaks of, one of those ‘upon whom nothing is lost’. Let understanding and wisdom be engraved on my mind as deep as the lines of living on a wise and weathered face. Teach me to love and teach me to be humble and let me learn to respect human difference, human privacy, human dignity, and human pain. And then let me find the words to say it so it can’t be overlooked and can’t be forgotten.”
The Art and Power of Words
Only by means of words can the writer persuade a person of the truth in what he says or make anyone care about it. Possession of a weapon does not make a warrior or hunter, but no one is a warrior or hunter without one. Conrad and Frost could disparage the gift of words because both had it, supremely. Having had something to say, they found ways to say it. Frost wrote (in “The Figure a Poem Makes”), “Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting.” Here he compressed into a single image the whole process of artistic creation. Conrad, without his sensuously loaded language, could never have realized so spectacularly the literary purpose he set himself: “. . . by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel.. . before all, to make you see. That and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm—all you demand—and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.”The art of writing begins in the senses and is accomplished with words. Its end is communicated insight. When writing is successful, it communicates insight to the reader with a pang, a heightened awareness, a sharpening of feeling, and a sense of personal exposure, danger, involvement, or enlargement. The achievement of communicated insight unmistakably distinguishes the artist from the everyday user of words.
Know What You Really Feel
Speaking of his apprentice years in Paris in the early 1920s, Ernest Hemingway said (in Death in the Afternoon ): “I was trying to write then, and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced. In writing for a newspaper you told what happened and, with one trick and another, you communicated the emotion aided by the element of timeliness which gives a certain emotion to any account of something that has happened on that day; but the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or in ten years, or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always, was beyond me and I was working very hard to get it.”
This passage suggests a simple-sounding but rigorous training program for any beginner: learn to see straight; practice with endless patience, stating purely what you find to say; and see it and state it with the aim of communicating not only its meaning but its most essential emotion, the thing that made it important to you in the first place.
The Creative Writer as an Image Maker
Creative writing begins in the senses, and the stamp of the senses must remain on it. No one lacking acute senses and the willingness to use them should pretend to literature. Without senses the writer cannot create images, and images are his only means of making his reader hear and feel and see. By pure intelligence he can outargue a reader and convince him, but his intelligence must be supplemented by the equipment of sensuousness.
Not only must creative writers perceive in images, but they must communicate in them and the reader must read in them. Images are both source and means. An image is crystallized by the perceptions of the writer, is converted into words like a cable message being unscrambled, and finally is reconverted by the reader into something like the original perception.
The creative writer is concrete—that is, he is bound to things of experience. However strongly he holds his ideas, he cannot express them in the way a philosopher or a social scientist does. He does not deal in concepts or in formulated patterns of thought but in images and imitations. He is concerned with people, places, actions, feelings, and sensations. His fictional house should be haunted, not inhabited, by ideas; ideas should flit past the windows, not fill the rooms. The moment anyone tries to make poems or stories of ideas alone he is at the edge of absurdity; he can only preach, never interest and persuade, because ideas alone are simply not dramatic. They must be put into the form of people and actions to achieve their proper force. One Macbeth onstage is worth a thousand essays on ambition.
Sometimes a writer begins with ideas, as Nathaniel Hawthorne did, and makes them into flesh and blood; sometimes he starts with flesh and blood, as Mark Twain did, and lets flesh and blood work themselves out into ideas. Either way he is steadily called upon to render the way life seems to him or to his imaginary characters. To make the reader feel this vividly, the writer makes use of all the senses he has. That is why literature overflows with such sensuous things as the hollowness of footsteps in a street at night; the fisting of anger in the pit of the stomach; the weight of hydrangeas brushed against in the summer dark; and the look and texture of the fuzzy down on the back of a fair-haired woman’s neck.
Anyone attempting to write must take the trouble to know, and be able to express, the qualities of things: their hardness and smoothness and splinteriness, their heat and cold. A writer must observe and be able to communicate differing qualities of voice and gesture and the nearly invisible signs in eyes and mouth and hands and body by which people show their state of mind or emotion—fear and delight and loss. A writer must be able to stimulate the sweat glands and the hair follicles of his readers; make mouths water; turn stomachs; command tears, laughter, and scorn—all with words.
Most literary images are visual. Images, however, may just as properly involve any other sense or several senses at one time. Sometimes the images are heavily and damply auditory, as when Mark Twain’s jumping frog leaps after a fly and alights on the counter “as solid as a gob of mud.”
St. Agnes’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was! The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold; The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass, And silent was the flock in woolly fold: Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told His rosary, and while his frosted breath, Like pious incense from a censor old, Seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death, Past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.
The Use of Figures of Speech
It is a common misconception that an image always involves a figure of speech. Often it does. The poet Francis Thompson in describing a poppy as a “yawn of fire” uses a metaphor. In comparing the sea and sky of a sunrise to the opening of a clamshell, D.H. Lawrence employs a simile. The Browning lines obtain their vividness from onomatopoeia (word-imitation of a sound). The Keats stanza, however, gets its total effect of coldness not entirely with figurative language. “Woolly fold” (metonymy, the use of one word for another that it suggests) is there as a contrasting image. The image of the frosted breath is primarily visual.
Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherised upon a table
On the other hand, an objective approach is illustrated by Hemingway’s description of a trout stream in “Big Two-Hearted River” (from In Our Time ): “He watched them holding themselves with their noses into the current, many trout in deep, fast-moving water, slightly distorted as he watched far down through the glassy convex surface of the pool, its surface pushing and swelling smooth against the resistance of the long-driven piles of the bridge . . .” Here the author only observes. He makes no judgment. There is no metaphorical leap, such as that in the Eliot lines, but only a reproduction of the thing seen. In later stories, especially in his novels, Hemingway wisely relaxed his ban against both metaphorical language and symbolism. Nevertheless his attempt to put the whole burden of vividness on the precision of observation was invaluable training. It was not unlike that which Gustave Flaubert set for his pupil, the future great short-story writer Guy de Maupassant, when he sent him out to report in a single phrase or a single word the content of an action. Whether arrayed in metaphor or stripped to bare observation, any creative writing must be concrete and must communicate by images. ( See also figures of speech .)
Different Ways of “Seeing”
Thomas Wolfe wrote in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had been badgering him about his lack of economy and form: “Don’t forget, Scott, that a great writer is not only a leaver-outer but also a putter-inner, and that Shakespeare and Cervantes and Dostoevsky were great putter-inners—greater putter-inners, in fact, than taker-outers and will be remembered for what they put in—remembered, I venture to say, as long as Monsieur Flaubert will be remembered for what he left out.” (From The Crack-Up .)
Wolfe himself was a mighty putter-inner. He could hardly let a character pass a hardware-store window without enumerating every tool in it; and the sights and sounds of afternoon in a familiar town set him into a sensuous frenzy: “Light came and went and came again, the great plume of the fountain pulsed and winds of April sheeted it across the Square in a rainbow gossamer of spray. The fire department horses drummed on the floors with wooden stomp, most casually, and with dry whiskings of their clean, coarse tails. The street cars ground into the Square from every portion of the compass and halted briefly like wound toys in their familiar quarter-hourly formula. A dray, hauled by a boneyard nag, rattled across the cobbles.. . . The courthouse bell boomed out its solemn warning of immediate three.. . .” (From The Hills Beyond .)
This is a passage worth study, particularly for its choice of strong and active verbs: “pulsed,” “sheeted,” “drummed,” “ground,” “rattled,” “boomed.” It is certainly not seven eighths below the surface, as Hemingway said icebergs are and stories should be. It is piled on, heaped until it runs over.
Differing from either method is the impressionism of such a writer as Anton Chekhov, who said, “You will get the full effect of a moonlight night if you write that on the mill-dam a little glowing star-point flashed from the neck of a broken bottle, and the round, black shadow of a dog, or a wolf, emerged and ran.” In that same impressionist manner, Stephen Crane carries the reader along with a fatally wounded soldier walking to some quiet place to die. The whole passage is like a prolonged silent scream, and it ends with a single staring phrase: “The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer.”
Most potential writers are omnivorous readers, and in the nature of things an apprentice is sure to imitate. He has no other way to learn. Although he may try very hard to “develop a style of his own,” his real style will be a long time in developing and will parallel or reflect the development of his own mind and sensibility. The best way to find the style that naturally fits him is to follow Hemingway’s method and simply try to state purely whatever is before his eyes.
Freedom in the Use of Natural Language
Nothing is so likely to hinder the freedom of expression so essential to true creative writing as a too-strict adherence to “correctness.” This is not to say that correctness does not matter or that there is no distinction between good usage and bad usage. It is only to say that there should be growth and invention at all levels of language.
When Hemingway, in The Green Hills of Africa , remarked that “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn ,” he was exaggerating. Nevertheless this work, containing the inspired lingo of Huck Finn, has had more effect on American literature and on the development of American speech than any other book.
Although Hawthorne was a good writer, any paragraph of his sounds old-fashioned and stilted. Huckleberry Finn , however, remains fresh and lively. An example is Huck’s description of a river sunrise: “Not a sound, anywheres—perfectly still—just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe. The first thing to see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dull line—that was the woods on t’other side; you coudn’t make nothing else out; then a pale place in the sky; then more paleness spreading around; then the river softened up away off, and warn’t black any more, but gray; you could see little dark spots drifting along ever so far away—trading-scows, and such things; and long black streaks—rafts; sometimes you could hear a sweep screaking; or jumbled-up voices, it was so still, and sounds come so far; and by and by you could see a streak on the water which you know by the look of the streak that there’s a snag there in a swift current which breaks on it and makes that streak look that way; and you see the mist curl up off of the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and you make out a log cabin in the edge of the woods, away on the bank on t’other side of the river, being a wood-yard, likely, and piled by them cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres; then the nice breeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh and sweet to smell on account of the woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way, because they’ve left dead fish laying around, gars and such, and they do get pretty rank; and next you’ve got the full day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the song-birds just going it!”
Although not traditionally “correct,” this passage is magnificent. It does what language was created to do. Twain has observed the scene with the greatest possible precision and found a way of stating it purely. The “bullfrogs a-cluttering,” the “song-birds just going it,” and the “wood-yard . . . piled by them cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres” are barbarisms skillfully handled, the kind of inventive and playful language that should not be suppressed. Barbarisms crop up in casual speech, in popular songs, even in advertising slogans. They exist as a kind of private language in the subculture of the American adolescent. They well up out of jazz and the jazz world. A young writer would make a mistake to be enslaved to subliterary languages, but he would be a fool to ignore them.
For the young creative writer there is no rule on language. There are only warnings, and they concern the extremes of choice. Bookish and literary language, the kind that half embarrasses its author when it is read aloud, is obviously a mistake. A mistake too is the affected overmasculine toughness that some young men adopt in the belief that it permits them to love literature without being called effeminate. Between those extremes anything that works is good, and a playful way with language is always better than a solemn one. When a tourist at Bryce Canyon, Utah, said to his wife as they got out of their car, “Well, shall we pace over and peer at it?” he was indulging in a playful attitude toward words. One would expect more from him in the way of true appreciation than from someone who braced himself solemnly and got ready to experience the feelings he thought he should have.
The Use of Symbolism
In one sense, every word is a symbol. “Tree” is four letters and a certain sound, but it is also a thing with bark and leaves. Put into a context which includes the word Calvary it becomes a metaphor for the cross on which Christ was nailed. That kind of extension of meaning, which is called symbolism, is actually one of the most suggestive and economical ways of communicating the aesthetic experience.
To-day, the road all runners come, Shoulder-high we bring you home, And set you at your threshold down, Townsman of a stiller town.
Here the symbolism is perfectly plain, on what Prof. Harry Levin of Harvard University called the conventional level. Much poetic symbolism is of this commonly accepted kind. A journey often symbolizes human life; a season often suggests the age of a man.
A symbolism less traditional is what Levin called the explicit. An example is this line by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!” A third sort described by Levin is the implicit, which takes the reader into more ambiguous country. In Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick , Moby Dick is more than whale, but what precisely is it? God? The spirit of evil? A manifestation of pure mindless force? No single explanation will fully satisfy. It is in this area of unexplained, private, or ambiguous meaning that much contemporary writing exists.
Again there are no rules for the student except that he should read, and read, and read, and fill his mind, and express what he wants to as well as he can. If he is sucked into the whirlpool of allegory, he may go down; many have. He is safe in the conventional and explicit levels, however, and reasonably safe in the implicit. When he begins using private symbols, disguising rather than revealing his thoughts, he risks exclusiveness and pedantry.
Of one thing, however, he can be sure: when the outward story or poem is solid, the symbolism, even though ambiguous, will take care of itself. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels , though representing far more than appears on its surface, remains a fascinating children’s story. Moby-Dick is still a tale of adventure. It does not attempt to cast a shadow without having any solid substance.
The Problem of Point of View
The beginner should try all types of writing, but some forms will come more naturally to him than others. Short lyrics, short stories, and one-act plays are more within his scope than longer forms. He will learn most by making many beginnings and endings—the hardest parts of any piece of writing, and where, as Chekhov said, a man is most likely to lie.
Hiding himself is not a problem for the writer who chooses lyric poetry, because this is a very personal art. If he chooses fiction, however, particularly the short story, he will have to learn, like any good puppeteer, to keep his hands and feet from showing. Basic to all fictional writing is the problem of selecting the point of view from which one wishes to have the reader follow the story. Fiction is usually much less personal than the lyric poem and less bound to objectivity than the drama.
The writer of fiction, however he may pretend to be indifferent and invisible, is always there. He cannot help steering, cannot help providing some double vision, commentary, insight, or irony. If he wants a reader to participate intensely, he adopts the point of view of one of the characters in the story, sees through those eyes alone, thinks with that mind, knows nothing that that individual would not know. If he wants to imitate the dramatic, he pretends to be a camera. John Steinbeck does this in Of Mice and Men , a story which was written to fulfill at one and the same time the requirements of a novel and those of a play. If, as Chekhov, Conrad, Crane, and many others do, the writer wants to have the immediacy of drama but at the same time to keep the right of comment, then he has the subtle job of keeping himself out of his story while still making it say what he wants it to say.
Point of view is a complicated subject. Handling it, however, is a principal skill which a fiction writer must develop once he has perfected his gift of words. He must be in his story but not apparently in it; the story must go his way while appearing to act itself out. For this sort of skill, the short story is the best practice ground. It is so short that a flaw in the point of view shows up like a spider in the cream. It is so concentrated that it forces the writer to develop great economy and structural skill. It is so intense that, like a karate kick, it has great knock-down power.
A writer must knock readers down. This is the goal he must constantly have in mind: to make people listen, to catch their attention, to find ways to make them hold still while he says what he so passionately wants to say. Although creative writing as an intellectual exercise may be pursued with profit by anyone, writing as a profession is not a job for amateurs, dilettantes, part-time thinkers, 25-watt feelers, the lazy, the insensitive, or the imitative. It is for the creative, and creativity implies both talent and hard work.
Situation, or Conflict
Alexandre Dumas said that to make a novel you need a passion and four walls. He might have added that to make a passion you need people “in a bind,” in a situation charged with love, hate, ambition, longing—some tension that cries to be resolved. A beginning writer may have trouble finding his real situation. He may have only clues, characters, a place, an atmosphere, or the haunting association of ideas in his mind. In a novel he may even be able to grope for the situation through his first chapters. (One formula for the novel, proposed by Bernard De Voto, was to throw away the first five chapters and start with number six.) In a short story, however, the situation must be located at once, for even more than in a novel, a short story must start off running, must begin on a rolling slope as near the end as possible.
Because no situation can exist apart from what brought it about and what it leads to, the writer will be led both forward and backward from his germinal knot of tension. He must deal at least a little with the past, which in fictional technique is called summary or exposition; and he must deal with the dramatic present, which is called scene.
The Dramatic Present, or Scene
To make a scene is to put characters onstage and let them act out their own story. The point of view may not be strictly objective—there may be some equivalent of the stage manager of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town lounging around somewhere—but any scene is essentially dramatic. It follows George M. Cohan’s celebrated advice, “Don’t tell ’em—show ’em.” A scene must persuade the reader in all its aspects. The characters have to be credible and consistent. The dialogue must approximate real talk, without being cluttered by the monotony, fatuousness, and repetition of real talk. The action must move in a direct line, without wanderings or irrelevancies. An internal logic has to hold the scene together, beginning and middle and end. The setting must be sensuously realized and then never permitted to drop away and be forgotten.
If any object is important enough to be mentioned, it should be put to use. As Chekhov said, if you hang a gun on the wall at the beginning, it has to go off before the end. If there is a fireplace in a scene, characters should warm themselves by it or lean on its mantle, as part of their stage business.
One does not learn to do a job such as this by practicing whole paragraphs of description, whole chunks of setting or characterization. The elements interweave, and there are many balls to be kept in the air at once. A single paragraph may contain a fragment of action; a bit of dialogue that by its content or its manner and tone characterizes the speaker; a sensuous perception of some detail of setting; and a glance backward in memory, dialogue, or external comment to pick up a meaningful bit of the past.
Now for a few rules of thumb: (1) Start in the middle of things; begin in motion. (2) Stay in motion by not letting the summary intrude; keep the summary feeding into the scene in hints and driblets, by what Henrik Ibsen called the “uncovering” technique. (3) Never explain too much. Most readers are offended if they cannot use their imaginations, and a story loses much of its suspense the moment everything is explained. (4) Keep yourself out of your story; pick a point of view and (especially in the short story) stay with it. Nobody has less right in your story than yourself. (5) Do not show off or try to impress others with your style. The writing should match the characters and the situation, not you. This principle applies as well to obscenity and profanity as to other matters. They are appropriate only where character and situation call for such elements. (6) Nothing is to be gained by attempts to find substitutes for the word “said” in dialogue tags. “Said” is a neutral word that disappears. (7) Stopping a story is hard. Learn to do it cleanly, without leftovers or repetition.
Wallace E. Stegner
Applebee, Arthur. Context for Learning To Write (Ablex, 1984). Barkas, J.L. How To Write Like a Professional (Arco, 1984). Barzun, Jacques. Simple and Direct, rev. ed. (Harper, 1985). Beaugrande, Robert de. Writing Step by Step: Easy Strategies for Writing and Revising (Harcourt, 1985). Burroway, Janet. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (Little, 1987). Clouse, B. The Student Writer: Editor and Critic (McGraw, 1986). Donovan, Melissa. Teaching Creative Writing (Good Apple, 1990). Phillips, K., and Steiner, B. Catching Ideas (Libraries Unlimited, 1988). Smith, Frank. Writing and the Writer (Holt, 1985). Stein, Gertrude. How To Write (Dover, 1975). Stott, Bill. Write to the Point and Feel Better About Your Writing (Doubleday, 1984). Strunk, William, Jr. and White, E.B. The Elements of Style, 3rd ed. (Macmillan, 1979). Zinsser, William. On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction, rev. ed. (Harper, 1985). ‘Death in the Afternoon’: Copyright 1932 Charles Scribner’s Sons; renewal copyright (c) 1960 Ernest Hemingway. ‘The Figure a Poem Makes’ from ‘Complete Poems of Robert Frost’. Copyright 1930, 1939 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. ‘Notes on Life and Letters’ by Joseph Conrad quoted with permission of J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ in ‘Collected Poems 1909–1935’ by T.S. Eliot, copyright, 1936, by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. ‘In Our Time’: Copyright 1925, 1930 Charles Scribner’s Sons; renewal copyright 1953, 1958 Ernest Hemingway. ‘The Crack-Up’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Copyright 1945 by New Directions quoted with the permission of the Estate of Thomas Wolfe. ‘The Hills Beyond’ by Thomas Wolfe quoted with the permission of Harper & Brothers. ‘The Green Hills of Africa’: Copyright 1935 Charles Scribner’s Sons. ‘To an Athlete Dying Young’ in ‘A Shropshire Lad’—Authorized Edition—from ‘Complete Poems’ by A.E. Housman. Copyright (c) 1959 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. ‘The Single Hound’ by Emily Dickinson, copyright 1914, 1942 by Martha Dickinson Bianchi, by permission of Little, Brown & Co. The illustration—permission to reprint has been granted by the Publishers from ‘The Poems of Emily Dickinson’, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, copyright 1951, 1955 by The President and Fellows of Harvard College.
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What is Creative Writing
WHAT IS CREATIVE WRITING?
The word creative is defined in various ways. The following are just some of the definitions:
“The ability to create”
“Productive and imaginative”
“Characterised by expressiveness and originality”
Creative writing is often defined as the writing of fiction , where the author creates events, scenes and characters, sometimes even a world. In reality, aside from instinctive utterances like the yelp of an injured child or a delighted ‘Oh!’, all expressions are creative.
Learn more -Creative Writing Course On Line
Extract from our Creative Writing Course:
HOW DOES CREATIVE WRITING DIFFER?
Is creative writing different from other kinds of writing? As stated before all writing involves creativity since it is selective and is written from the writer’s perspective. Like informative writing, expositions (detailed statements or explanations) or instructions, creative writing does convey information, even when we define it so broadly; indeed, information is the basic component of all communication, no matter what kind.
The overall intent of creative writing is not to inform.
It is to stir the emotions, to elicit an emotional response.
A storyteller’s narrative is designed to express the storyteller’s feelings about some aspect of life, and to engage the reader in those feelings. A poet uses events, images and people to deliver concentrated emotion. Dramatists and screen writers convey and stir emotions through action and dialogue. A magazine feature writer comments on real people and real lives to arouse our sympathy, delight, horror or concern.
Information and creativity
The point is that almost any genre or category of writing can be written to engage the reader emotionally as well as intellectually. What makes a work more creative than informative is its emphasis.
Informative writing is primarily about imparting knowledge.
Creative writing is primarily about creating emotional effect and significance.
Differences between creative and informative writing are sometimes quite blurred. Some well-known and esteemed pieces of writing that are primarily informative are also very creative, sensitive and beautiful, while some primarily creative works are also highly informative. To understand this better, read a chapter from A.S. Byatt’s novel, Possession , Tolstoy’s War and Peace , Dee Brown’s history, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and James Mitchener’s epic novel, Hawaii . You will also see writing where creativity and information carry equal weight and importance in some newspaper feature articles, often found in the centre pages of the weekend editions, and in many magazine articles.
Good creative writing uses the same kinds of writing that make for good informative writing, or good argument, or good exposition. It is the writer’s skill at using these forms of writing that can turn any piece of writing into creative piece of writing.
Even when we write fiction, we are dealing with reality as we know it. Fictional does not mean false. It takes our reality, or parts of it, and shows it to us in new ways. It makes the familiar unfamiliar, and takes us into parts of reality, making us take the time (because we read much slower than we think or see) to see its complexity, beauty and pain. Even fantasy fiction and science fiction, which give us totally created worlds, are based on elements of reality, and are therefore recognisable and believable. Therefore, when we write creatively, it doesn’t matter whether we are writing fiction or non-fiction. What matters is that we are sharing experiences and emotions with the reader and, for a while at least, leading them towards a particular point of view.
Genre is a word often used to describe categories or types of written text. Some of the more familiar genres of creative writing are:
- poetry of all kinds
- short stories
- novels, including westerns, romances, science fiction, detective stories, mysteries, fantasy, etc.
- stage play scripts
- film and television screenplays
Other genres that we may not think of as creative writing are:
- magazine articles
- newspaper feature stories
- card greetings
- books or articles on science, history etc.
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Creative writing is an expressive form of literature; one which demands you to use your own creativity, imagination and story to portray a particular message
Creative writing is any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, or technical forms of literature
Creative writing, a form of artistic expression, draws on the imagination to ... The Missouri Review is a well-known literary journal with archives online.
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It's the "art of making things up" or putting a creative splash on history, as in creative nonfiction. In any instance, creative writing makes you step out of
The term creative writing means imaginative writing, or writing as an art. The primary concern of creative writing is not with factual information or with the
Creative writing is a form of writing that encompasses a number of different genres and styles outside the more formal scope of technical
Creative writing is often defined as the writing of fiction, where the author creates events, scenes and characters, sometimes even a world.