Creative writing can be very daunting, especially for students who aren’t confident in their writing abilities. Many students believe they just aren’t creative. This can be a problem when they are asked to write creatively, especially under timed exam conditions. These situations can become even more stressful when they are writing in response to something they haven’t seen before. In turn, students can have the tendency to disengage and become unmotivated to write, which is not good!
Thankfully, there are ways to improve writing, and like most things, practice makes perfect. Our tips stem from experience in reading ineffective and linear creative writing pieces, as well as reflecting on the writing skills and knowledge of our teachers. There are two major issues that present themselves in a lot of creative writing – structure and language. This may seem self-explanatory, as writing is nothing without structure and language, but they are easily fixed, as described below.
A very common mistake in writing imaginatively is trying to tell a full story. The problem with this is that, in 45-50 minutes, it is not possible to write a full story from start to finish as effectively as needed. Structurally, a lot of stories recount a series of events, in order, leading to a complication and then a big resolution. However, linear stories (where events take place in chronological order) are often very predictable and fail to entice the reader to keep reading.
Structure is key
By altering the structure of a response, writing can be improved greatly.
A few ways to do this more effectively include:
- starting in the moment of action
- beginning with dialogue
- writing from inside the narrator’s point of view.
Firstly, by placing the reader straight into a moment of action, they are forced into the situation, and are left questioning what is happening. This is ideal, as more than likely, they will want to continue reading.
Starting with dialogue can also be effective, as it places the reader in a conversation immediately. If done right, it can also keep the reader enticed and interested in what is taking place.
Finally, writing from the reader’s point of view can give the reader an in-depth knowledge of the primary character, allowing them to better understand this character’s actions, speech, motivations and personality.
Language is the means in which we communicate our imagination to the reader. In a creative response, the purpose is to engage, to entice, to capture one’s imagination and to trigger an emotional response. This is all achieved through language.
A fantastic way to improve the use of language in creative responses is to focus on incorporating more sensory imagery and description. This means making reference to the five senses of sight, touch, smell, sound and taste. Whilst these don’t all have to be included at once, it is important to help the reader place themselves in the setting and situation, and make them feel what the character is feeling.
As a writer, it is important to be able to imagine yourself as the character in that particular setting, and communicate what they would be thinking, feeling, seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and touching. This is what helps to communicate meaning and improve reader engagement. As a result, these are the techniques and effects that markers are keeping their eyes peeled for.
Let characters tell the story
Characters are the most important element to any plot and the key to success in writing really good stories is having the characters lead the plot instead of the other way around. It probably sounds daunting to think of planning a character and a story in the same timed exam, but the good news is you can do much of this thinking beforehand.
Having well rounded characters requires planning out in depth how your characters will look, behave, act, and be. To help you with this, when you’re planning out your story, make sure that you have good character sketches as well. Character sketches should talk about all the things above, but also about a character’s fears and desires.
One thing that’s quite hard when making characters is making them feel distinct and different. If you manage to give all of your characters different fears, desires, and motivations, then you’ll automatically have very different and interesting characters.
This advice can also be used when actually writing your story. Make sure that the decisions that your characters make are informed by who they are as characters and that they’re not simple vehicles for plot actions that had to happen. This is a very common problem in very boring creative pieces and the characters end up feeling like they’re not real or that they’re empty vessels.
We recommend you aim to go into an exam with a variety of character ideas and settings which you can remix depending on the question. Then, in your reading time, you can consider how these characters you’ve sketched might interact with the plot.
Ending on a strong note
The best way to write an innovative creative piece is to make sure that events in the plot build naturally towards the end and that there is a certain flow in how the action occurs. This does sound slightly vague, but it’s something that everyone can intuitively feel when they’re reading a given story. If the story has bad flow and bad build up, it’s completely forgettable: there’s nothing that you feel on a deeper level and the story does not stay with you. The key to making a story stay with the reader is making it so that the end is a real ‘gut-punch.’
For authors who have mastered the art of the ending, we recommend looking at 1984 by George Orwell, or Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants.
If you’re able to emulate this strategy, your creatives will stick for a long time in your reader’s mind.
Love your own story
This is by far the most important piece of advice for writing creatives or writing anything really. If you’re proud of your work and you’re happy to read it, then it will be innovative and interesting every single time.
The best way to love your story is to write things that you’re proud of and stay true to your own values when you’re writing. If someone, a teacher, tutor or anybody else, tells you to do something one way and you don’t want to, then don’t do it!
Follow your heart and break rules if you like. This is not to say that teachers and tutors don’t know what they’re talking about, but that you should have the final say over what you write and how it works, since you need to say true to yourself.
Overall, by practising writing in a creative fashion on a more regular basis, focusing on how meaning is created and engagement is sustained through structure and language, your imaginative writing can be greatly improved.
Once our writing can truly evoke emotional responses from audiences, the feelings of empowerment and achievement are extraordinary.
Need some expert help?
Our English teachers would love to critique and build on your writing skills. Enrol with us and we can show you all the tips and tricks to mastering an innovative creative piece!
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