A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to Creative Writing
Defining creative writing is a tough job as it encompasses many types of writing. If we still try and define it then it can be said that the word creative means the ability to create or to be imaginative so creative writing can be stated as any form of writing be it fiction or non-fiction where the author creates a world of imagination and creativity with various events, scenes, characters, etc.
There are two categories of creative writing:
Fiction means anything that can make a person believe that it is real but is not. Fictional writing includes short stories, vignettes, plays, novellas, or novels, fables, etc. In fictional writings, the authors might base a character inspired by their personal lives or someone they have met or seen in their lives but the story revolving around that character or the story, in general, is not real or is fictional.
Such writings are fictional writings. Few examples of fictional writing are the Twilight series, Harry Potter series, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, etc.
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Non-fiction means anything factual, true, and informative. Non-fictional form of writing is something that anyone who knows how to pen down the facts and information or experiences can do. One needs to write their own true experiences, information, or facts that can engage the readers and interest them. A nonfiction form of writing needs the same techniques that a fiction creative writer needs but a nonfiction writer has the liberty to include their personal opinions and emotions into their work.
Non-fiction writing includes all forms of emotions like joy, sorrow, hatred, jealousy, anger, etc. that the writer has experienced or has seen someone experience. It is the best way to put someone’s experience, facts, information, etc. creatively in front of the world. Few examples of nonfiction writings are memoirs; biographies, journalism, expository pieces, argumentative pieces, functional pieces, opinion pieces, historical writings, scientific writings, technical writings, economic writings, etc.
The two categories that come under creative writing in the academic setting are fiction and poetry classes. The two other topics that come under creative writing which are taught separately for screen and stage are screenwriting and playwriting.
It is considered any writing of original composition. Creative writing was traditionally called literature which is a more contemporary and process-oriented name. But it also includes a variety of genres.
It is studied from the high school level through graduate school or university level in India. Most Creative Writing degrees for undergraduates in college or universities are Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees (BFA).
The terminal degree in this field is Master of Fine Arts (MFA) which is pursued by a lot of candidates after taking the degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). After completing the Master’s degree many candidates go for the ultimate Ph.D. program which can bridge the gap between academic study and artistic pursuit. In the classroom, it is generally taught in a workshop format rather than the seminar style.
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Few elements of creative writing are as follows:
- Action Fiction– It is a literary genre that is a category of literary composition. It includes adventurous stories, spy novels, terror tales, mysteries, etc. For instance, Man on Fire (1980), First Blood (1972), Nothing Lasts Forever (1979), Killed in Action (2018), 58 Minutes (1987), etc. are few famous action novels.
- Character– A character is a person or other being in a novel, play, television series, film, video game, etc. A character is sometimes fictional or sometimes based on a real-life person. A character includes both stock characters and those who are fully individualized. The types of characters include round vs flat, dynamic vs static, regularly recurring, and guest characters. Few examples of famous characters are Henrik Ibsen from Hedda Gabler of the year 1891, Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series, etc.
- Genre– It comes under the category of literary composition. It can be set on literary technique, content, tone, or in the case of fiction, it can be set on length. Aristotle had applied biological concepts to the classification of literary genres and hence genre ideology began to develop with the ideologies and written works of Aristotle. After Aristotle genre was further developed by many other literary critics and scholars. Major forms of the genre are Poetry like sonnets, haiku, limerick, etc. Prose like a notebook, novel, novella, short story, etc.
- Narration– It is a literary theory where a spoken or written commentary is used to convey a story to the audience. It is one of the most important elements of all written stories like novels, poems, short stories, memoirs, etc. In other storytelling formats like plays, films, television shows, video games, etc. narration is optional as in these formats story can be conveyed through various other means like visual action or by dialogues between characters.
- Conflict– In this form of writing, conflict is a struggle or challenge that the main characters face and solve to achieve their goals. There are four types of conflicts in fiction and they are “man against man”, “man against nature”, “man against society” and “man against self.”
- Pace– In this writing, pace means the speed at which the story is told or narrated not the speed at which the story takes place. Pace can be increased and decreased according to the requirement of the story. Few ways to increase the pace are skipping steps in a logical sequence of events, short sentences, and dialogues, action, etc., and few ways to decrease the pace are through description, narration, and introspection.
- Dialogue- In this writing, dialogue is an exchange of words or silence between two or more characters. When a character talks aloud on his own is called “monologue”.
- Plot- It is a sequence of events where one event affects the next one. It follows the principle of cause and effect.
- Point of View- It comes from the Latin word “punctum visus”. It means point sight. In this form of writing, the point of view is the position of the narrator in the description of events. It is basically where the writer points the sight of all the readers.
- Scene- In a novel or story scene means a section of a novel or story where the characters engage themselves in actions or dialogues. A scene is complete in itself as it has a beginning, middle, and an end.
- Setting- In a narrative, setting or backdrop is a literary element and is geographic location and time within it. The setting sets the main mood and backdrop for any story. The elements of the setting are historical period, culture, geography, and hour. It is one of the fundamental components of creative writing.
- Style- In creative writing or literature writing style is how thoughts of an individual, school, nation, or period are expressed.
- Suspense- It is an emotion that involves pleasure or anxiety while waiting for an expected event and the outcome of a plot created. It is a device that helps to maintain the interest of the audience or the readers.
- Narrative or Theme- In a narrative, a theme is a central subject, message, or topic. It has two major categories which are called “thematic concept” and “thematic statement”.
- Tone- A tone explains the attitude of the writer towards the audience and the subject matter.
- Voice- The voice of the writer is a metaphorical term by which some of the critics refer to as distinctive features in terms of the spoken utterance of a written work.
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Now that we know briefly what creative writing is then let us focus on how to write. Learning how to write is not an easy job. It takes a lot of time, patience, energy, and practice to become a professional and sharp creative writer. Whenever we face writer’s block whether we are a professional writer or a fresher in this field we need to brush up and sharpen our writing skills and for that, we can do few creative writing exercises.
But before knowing what those exercises are let’s understand what are these exercises.
These exercises are short explosions of spontaneous writings. These writing exercises make a writer approach the same topic in a new way. Any writer be it a fresher or an experienced one should keep on writing short and spontaneous assignments to sharpen their abilities and learn the sill of approaching a story in various ways. It strengthens our writing process.
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Below mentioned are few creative exercises that can make our creative juices flow:
1.Start with a Blank Page
We can let our stream of consciousness run and start writing on a blank page without stopping in between. We need not edit while writing instead we should just let our brain and hands work and continue to write. This free writing exercise is suggested by many famous authors like Julia Cameron. This exercise should be done every day to sharpen our writing skills.
2. Switching up Point of View
It is an interesting exercise where we can take any scene from any chapter of our favorite books and can write the scene from a different character’s point of view making the other character the main character. This is a great way of getting to know another character’s point of view about any particular scene. It is also a great writing exercise.
For example- We can take a scene from Fault in Our Stars and write any particular scene where Augustus was the main character and switch that scene up and can make Mrs. Lancaster (Hazel’s mother) the main character and write the scene from her point of view.
A writing prompt can be explained as any brief passage, sentence, text, or image that is used by a writer which helps him or her in providing a potential or spontaneous topic idea for an original piece of content or topic. We can use writing prompts also known as story starters to generate these writing ideas. It helps a lot when we feel that our creative juices have just frozen. It helps them warm up and restart the flow of our creative juices.
There are loads of writing prompts available online that can be used by us to make our writings interesting like any attractive line from a random magazine or a famous quote said by someone. This is a great writing exercise that just jumpstarts the process of writing and can be practiced by budding as well as polished and experienced writers.
4. Focusing on Expertise
Anytime when we feel stuck and think that we are facing writer’s block what we can do is we can simply start writing on something that is our expertise like something as basic as cleaning cupboards, maintaining hygiene, dancing, music, art, and craft, home décor ideas, wardrobe essentials, stocks, investments, accounts, and finance, etc.
Well, anything that interests us and we can write about. When we assume that our readers are a complete noob then we can write about these topics in a full-fledged user manual form where it is more like giving instructions to our readers and making them aware of the topics that we like. We can break down the points into steps and can make this piece of writing more like an information manual which is like having a conversation with our readers.
This way the writing will become interesting for the readers where they can feel their involvement. When we write something as if some knowledge is just blabbered by one party and the other party is not involved it makes the process of reading such pieces boring and we should focus on keeping the interests of our readers.
5. Writing a Letter to Our Younger Selves
This is a great writing exercise where we can write a letter to our younger selves thinking that our younger self is a completely different person who needs some advice, explanation, praise, knowledge, love, forgiveness, care, compassion, etc. Our younger self could be our childhood self or us when we were teenagers or us a few years back.
We can simply write a letter to that self of us about anything like any good or bad experience that had impacted us in a huge way or about something where we feel we needed some guidance at that time and we couldn’t give advice to ourselves at that time.
Writing a letter to our younger selves is a good exercise where we can connect with the readers as the readers get emotionally involved with our younger selves where sometimes they feel that they could also relate to it. Once we have decided the core message of our letter then without overthinking and without any filter, we can simply start writing this letter to our younger self. It is a great exercise that can interest both the writer and the reader.
6. Writing About a Fiction or Nonfiction Story Told by Someone
Many times different fiction or nonfiction stories are told to us by someone or the other which gets registered to our brains. We can recall such stories and write about them. These stories can be about anything like something that was narrated to us during our childhood by our parents, grandparents, teachers, relatives, or anyone or any event that had happened with our friends, relatives, or anyone which we know about.
We can simply write about any of those events or stories narrated or known to us. These stories can have any emotion like sadness, joy, anger, funny, etc. It should be engaging and interesting otherwise the readers lose the connection and interest. It should be like a small journey that should make our readers feel that they are a part of it.
We can try blogging which is writing about any event, topic, situation, etc. This is a great writing exercise where we can simply write about anything that we like or dislike. It will keep creating a regular writing habit. This is a great way to practice writing every day. Blogging needs consistency and writing a blog every day with a first-person perspective can be beneficial for any type of writer.
Every writer should try and practice this writing exercise to polish his or her writing skills. This will help them in penning down their thoughts in a great way and writing every day will enhance their vocabulary as well as when we write every day, we want to break the monotony by adding new words to our writings. Blogging is a very helpful exercise.
8. Writing about Surroundings
Describing our surrounding can be a good writing exercise where we can either write in the first person or the third person and can simply write about our surrounding describing everything that surrounds us like if we are sitting in a garden, we can write about the greenery that we are witnessing or about the different types of plants, flowers, fruits, etc. that we are surrounded by.
We can write about the various sounds that we hear like birds chirping, the rustling of leaves, or the noise that crickets make. We can write about the time when we are sitting in the garden whether it’s the daytime or the night time and how’s the air if the breeze is cool or warm. We can write about anything that surrounds us. It could be anything. It is a good writing exercise where we do not need to think about any topic to write instead, we can simply look around and start writing.
9. Writing about a Dream
We can think about a dream that we had seen during our sleep that we can recall and write about. What we can do is give a twist and turns to our dream and use our imagination to write about it. We can also write about someone else’s dream that we know and can practice this exercise to polish our writing skills. We can also write about our dreams that we want to accomplish in our future.
This could be such an interesting thing to write about, where we can write about the dream that we want to live in our future and we are writing about it in the present feeling that we are living that dream while writing about it in the present moment. This is not a very common creative writing exercise but if practiced this can prove to be a quite interesting one where we can engage our readers by making our stories interesting.
10. Writing by pretending to be someone else
This is quite an interesting exercise where we can pretend to be someone else and write about anything from their perspective. All we need to do is think about a person we know or about someone we always wanted to be like and pick up a situation or an event and start writing about it from their perspective.
This will prove to be very interesting as getting to think about a situation from someone else’s perspective and then penning that down will give us a great opportunity to get into someone else’s shoes and lead their lives maybe for just some time but it is a great writing exercise which will interest both the writer and the reader.
The above-mentioned points are a few great creative writing exercises that can be practiced by a fresher or an experienced writer to dig deep into their skills to polish it. There can be many other exercises that can be followed by any writer to increase their writing skills. It is always a good idea to keep on working on our skills so that we do not lose our charm and creativity.
We can follow any of these exercises and let our creative juices never freeze. It is not like that we are never going to face writer’s block but by following these creative writing exercises we will be able to come out of that phase quickly and would be able to continue writing fresh and creative content. We should never forget that be it a budding or an experienced writer everybody needs to sharpen their skills so that their readers do not get bored of their writing and their writing always feel fresh and alive with which readers can connect.