I have always been passionate about writing. Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a writer/author and my stories along with other’s stories was a way for me to escape reality and dream away to a better world. I personally write every day which is why I am sure that I can provide a creative writing 101 post that will make sense for most people.
What is creative writing
Most of you here already know, but for good measure I will cover what creative writing is anyway.
In short, creative writing is everything fictional. However, poetry doesn’t have to be fictional to be creative writing. I have written plenty of poems about my real life and all poems are under the categories creative writing anyway.
To define creative writing we have to look at the content. Does the piece contain simile and/or metaphors it is certainly a piece of creative writing.
How to start a creative writing process.
How to go about the process depend on the person who is writing.
Some say, just start writing, but it’s not that simple.
I usually start out whit an idea of where to start and where I approximately want the story to end. Normally I only have the main character in my head when I start writing, and I simply let the story unfold as I write. This can be a long process and tend to be a harder way to write.
Others map the entire story and all of the characters before beginning the actual story. This way is usually easier because the structure of the story is already build which means that you “just” have to “build the walls, fill in furniture and decorate”, to end up with a finished story.
Now you might wonder why I don’t map out the story first then. The short answer is because it doesn’t work for me. The long answer is, that I kind of do, given that I have a basic line to follow. I know where to start and where to end and then I “just” follow the line. The more I write, the more I build onto the structure/map, so instead of “building the entire structure first, I build on floor at the time, always knowing how I want the last floor to look like.”
The key is to figure out what works for you.
Coming up with characters and characters names
Coming up with characters can be a bitch, to say the least.
As mentioned earlier I usually have the main character in my head when I start writing. When I start writing I know how I want my character to behave and usually how I want my character to look. All other character in my stories I make up as I go. I form my characters based of people from real life, not necessarily people I know, but people I have seen when shopping or going for a walk. People watching is a great way to get ideas for characters. I usually emphasice different traits and piece the characters together with different traits from different people. For instance, if I have seen a short chubby man with a big nose and a tall skinny man who was bald I could come up with a character who is tall, skinny and bald, but with a big beak-like nose.
The personally traits in my characters is also based on different people from real life. However, where most people in real life has several personality traits, I will limit the amount of personality traits in my characters and emphasize them according to the way I want to portray the character. If I want a character to be joyful I don’t let any other personality traits affect this character unless it makes sense in the story. Keep in mind that your characters are allowed to have different moods and a mainly joyful character can be very powerful when getting mad.
As to names I do a lot of research. I never come up with a random name. I research the meaning of the name, the origin of the name and so on. If i have a character who is very old, like a 200-year-old vampire from Scotland, I want the name to fit that description. I can’t just choose any name for a character like that because it wouldn’t make sense if a character like that was given a German, Irish or Swedish name. I also need to make sure that the name is old enough for the character. It obviously wouldn’t work with a name that is only 100 years old.
I can’t stress enough, that this is just my way of coming up with characters. It works for me, but that doesn’t mean that it will work for you.
Starting the story
I always start a story in medias res, which means to start in the middle of an event. It doesn’t have to be a big event, but can easily be something simple like in the middle of dinner. This way you should be able to capture your audience from the first sentence because something is happening right from the start.
The “once upon a time” approach can work too, but my opinion is that it tend to be boring.
Think about the last couple of book you read, how many of them started in medias res and how many started with “once upon a time”?
When you start in medias res you make it easier for yourself to actually continue the story naturally whereas with the “once upon a time” approach you will need to build up to the actual story.
Make sure to describe the scene as you tell the story, instead of describing the scene all at once.
Let’s say that the story takes place in a kitchen with a window over the sink and a table in the corner. The character is named Karen and is a middle-aged woman. She is cooking dinner and setting the table. I would write it something like this.
Karen stirred the pot on the stove a few times before she turned to the top cabinet behind her. She grabbed the round brass nob on the brown cabinet door and opened. Inside she carefully pulled out two plates and placed them on the counter top. By the kitchen sink she opened the top drawer and took two knives and two forks that she put on the plates. Over the sink a small bird chirped outside the window. She turned back to the stove and stirred the pot a few times again. With the back of her hand she tried to brush her brown hair away from her face. A few gray flecks made it clear that she was getting older. She put a cup of flour into the pot and wiped her hand on the worn out jeans she was wearing. Karen turned again. Took the plates and utensils from the counter top and to the small table in the corner. There was just enough room for two people around the square dinning table and that was all that were needed.
This way you tell a lot more than just the story, you also describe the surroundings and even the character without listing the descriptions or break away from the story. It is also an example of how to start in medias res.
Again, you will have to figure out for yourself what works for you.
Find your own way
Honestly, I can go on and on about how to write, but in the end, what matters is what works for you. There really is no right or wrong in this. Writing is an art form and should be treated as such. The main thing is that you have fun with it. Write for your own sake and not for others. As long as you enjoy writing, the result will be enjoyable to read.
If you want to practice what you have just learned then write your version of Karen who is cooking dinner and setting the table in a kitchen with a window over the sink and a table in the corner.