A Look Into Creative Writing | Oxford Summer Courses
Exploring the magic of creative writing with oxford summer courses.
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Defining Creative Writing
Creative writing , as taught at Oxford Summer Courses, is the process of crafting original and imaginative works of literature, poetry, prose, or scripts. It transcends conventional writing, encouraging individuals to explore language, structure, and narrative. Whether it's a heartfelt poem, a captivating short story, or a thought-provoking novel, creative writing allows us to communicate our unique perspectives and experiences with the world.
The Magic of Imagination
Creative Writing is a catalyst that sparks our creativity and empowers us to breathe life into our ideas on the page. With Oxford Summer Courses, aspiring writers aged 16-24 can embark on an extraordinary journey of creative expression and growth. Immerse yourself in the captivating realms of Oxford and Cambridge as you explore our inspiring creative writing programs. Teleport readers to distant lands, realms of fantasy and creation, introduce them to captivating characters, and craft new worlds through the transformative art of storytelling. Discover more about our creative writing course here . Unleash your imagination and unlock the writer within.
What Are the Different Types of Creative Writing?
Creative Writing comes in many forms, encompassing a range 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
At Oxford Summer Courses, students have the opportunity to delve into these various types of Creative Writing during the Summer School.
The Benefits of Creative Writing with Oxford Summer Courses
Engaging in Creative Writing with Oxford Summer Courses offers numerous benefits beyond self-expression. By joining our dedicated Creative Writing summer school programme, you would:
- Foster self-discovery and gain a deeper understanding of your thoughts, emotions, and personal experiences.
- Improve your communication skills, honing your ability to express yourself effectively and engage readers through refined language and storytelling abilities.
- Enhance empathy by exploring diverse perspectives and stepping into the shoes of different characters, broadening your understanding of the world around you.
- Gain new skills for further education or work, expanding your repertoire of writing techniques and abilities to enhance your academic or professional pursuits.
- Nurture your creativity, encouraging you to think outside the box, embrace unconventional ideas, and challenge the status quo, fostering a life-long mindset of innovation and originality.
Embracing the Journey
To embark on a journey of creative writing, embrace curiosity, take risks, and surrender to the flow of imagination. Write regularly, read widely, embrace feedback from tutors and peers at Oxford Summer Courses. Begin to experiment with styles and genres, and stay persistent in your course of action. The path of creative writing requires dedication, practice, and an open mind. Join us as we provide tips to help you start your creative writing journey and unleash your full creative potential under the guidance of industry professionals.
Creative Writing is a remarkable voyage that invites us to unleash our imagination, share our stories, and inspire others. It offers countless personal and professional benefits, nurturing self-expression, empathy, and creativity. So, grab a pen, open your mind, and embark on this enchanting journey of creative writing with Oxford Summer Courses. Let your words paint a vivid tapestry that captivates hearts and minds under the guidance of experienced tutors from Oxford and Cambridge. Join us as we explore the magic of creative writing and discover the transformative power it holds within through the renowned Oxford Summer Courses summer school.
Ready to study Creative Writing? Apply now to Oxford Summer Courses and join a community of motivated learners from around the world. Apply here .
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Discover the enchantment of creative writing with Oxford Summer Courses. Unleash your imagination, explore different genres, and enhance your communication skills. Nurture self-expression, empathy, and creativity while gaining valuable writing techniques.
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- What Is Creative Writing? The ULTIMATE Guide!
At Oxford Royale Academy, we offer a range of writing courses that have become extremely popular amongst students of all ages. The subject of creative writing continues to intrigue many academics as it can help to develop a range of skills that will benefit you throughout your career and life.
Nevertheless, that initial question is one that continues to linger and be asked time and time again: what is creative writing? More specifically, what does it mean or encompass? How does creative writing differ from other styles of writing?
During our Oxford Summer School programme , we will provide you with in-depth information on creative writing and how you can hone your skills. However, in this guide, we want to provide a detailed analysis of everything to do with creative writing, helping you understand more about what it is and why it could benefit you to become a creative writer.
The best place to start is with a definition.
What is creative writing?
The dictionary definition of creative writing is that it is original writing that expresses ideas and thoughts in an imaginative way.  Some academics will also define it as the art of making things up, but both of these definitions are too simplistic in the grand scheme of things.
It’s challenging to settle on a concrete definition as creative writing can relate to so many different things and formats. Naturally, as the name suggests, it is all built around the idea of being creative or imaginative. It’s to do with using your brain and your own thoughts to create writing that goes outside the realms of what’s expected. This type of writing tends to be more unique as it comes from a personal place. Each individual has their own level of creativity, combined with their own thoughts and views on different things. Therefore, you can conjure up your own text and stories that could be completely different from others.
Understanding creative writing can be challenging when viewed on its own. Consequently, the best way to truly understand this medium is by exploring the other main forms of writing. From here, we can compare and contrast them with the art of creative writing, making it easier to find a definition or separate this form of writing from others.
What are the main forms of writing?
In modern society, we can identify five main types of writing styles  that will be used throughout daily life and a plethora of careers:
- Narrative Writing
- Descriptive Writing
- Persuasive Writing
- Expository Writing
- Creative Writing
Narrative writing refers to storytelling in its most basic form. Traditionally, this involves telling a story about a character and walking the readers through the journey they go on. It can be a long novel or a short story that’s only a few hundred words long. There are no rules on length, and it can be completely true or a work of fiction.
A fundamental aspect of narrative writing that makes it different from other forms is that it should includes the key elements of storytelling. As per UX Planet, there are seven core elements of a good story or narrative  : the plot, characters, theme, dialogue, melody, decor and spectacle. Narrative writing will include all of these elements to take the ready on a journey that starts at the beginning, has a middle point, but always comes to a conclusion. This style of writing is typically used when writing stories, presenting anecdotes about your life, creating presentations or speeches and for some academic essays.
Descriptive writing, on the other hand, is more focused on the details. When this type of writing is used, it’s focused on capturing the reader’s attention and making them feel like they are part of the story. You want them to live and feel every element of a scene, so they can close their eyes and be whisked away to whatever place or setting you describe.
In many ways, descriptive writing is writing as an art form. Good writers can be given a blank canvas, using their words to paint a picture for the audience. There’s a firm focus on the five senses all humans have; sight, smell, touch, sound and taste. Descriptive writing touches on all of these senses to tell the reader everything they need to know and imagine about a particular scene.
This is also a style of writing that makes good use of both similes and metaphors. A simile is used to describe something as something else, while a metaphor is used to show that something is something else. There’s a subtle difference between the two, but they both aid descriptive writing immensely. According to many writing experts, similes and metaphors allow an author to emphasise, exaggerate, and add interest to a story to create a more vivid picture for the reader  .
Looking at persuasive writing and we have a form of writing that’s all about making yourself heard. You have an opinion that you want to get across to the reader, convincing them of it. The key is to persuade others to think differently, often helping them broaden their mind or see things from another point of view. This is often confused with something called opinionative writing, which is all about providing your opinions. While the two seem similar, the key difference is that persuasive writing is built around the idea of submitting evidence and backing your thoughts up. It’s not as simple as stating your opinion for other to read; no, you want to persuade them that your thoughts are worth listening to and perhaps worth acting on.
This style of writing is commonly used journalistically in news articles and other pieces designed to shine a light on certain issues or opinions. It is also typically backed up with statistical evidence to give more weight to your opinions and can be a very technical form of writing that’s not overly emotional.
Expository writing is more focused on teaching readers new things. If we look at its name, we can take the word exposure from it. According to Merriam-Webster  , one of the many definitions of exposure is to reveal something to others or present them with something they otherwise didn’t know. In terms of writing, it can refer to the act of revealing new information to others or exposing them to new ideas.
Effectively, expository writing focuses on the goal of leaving the reader with new knowledge of a certain topic or subject. Again, it is predominately seen in journalistic formats, such as explainer articles or ‘how-to’ blogs. Furthermore, you also come across it in academic textbooks or business writing.
This brings us back to the centre of attention for this guide: what is creative writing?
Interestingly, creative writing is often seen as the style of writing that combines many of these forms together in one go. Narrative writing can be seen as creative writing as you are coming up with a story to keep readers engaged, telling a tale for them to enjoy or learn from. Descriptive writing is very much a key part of creative writing as you are using your imagination and creative skills to come up with detailed descriptions that transport the reader out of their home and into a different place.
Creative writing can even use persuasive writing styles in some formats. Many writers will combine persuasive writing with a narrative structure to come up with a creative way of telling a story to educate readers and provide new opinions for them to view or be convinced of. Expository writing can also be involved here, using creativity and your imagination to answer questions or provide advice to the reader.
Essentially, creative writing can combine other writing types to create a unique and new way of telling a story or producing content. At the same time, it can include absolutely none of the other forms at all. The whole purpose of creative writing is to think outside the box and stray from traditional structures and norms. Fundamentally, we can say there are no real rules when it comes to creative writing, which is what makes it different from the other writing styles discussed above.
What is the purpose of creative writing?
Another way to understand and explore the idea of creative writing is to look at its purpose. What is the aim of most creative works of writing? What do they hope to provide the reader with?
We can look at the words of Bryanna Licciardi, an experienced creative writing tutor, to understand the purpose of creative writing. She writes that the primary purpose is to entertain and share human experiences, like love or loss. Writers attempt to reveal the truth with regard to humanity through poetics and storytelling.  She also goes on to add that the first step of creative writing is to use one’s imagination.
When students sign up to our creative writing courses, we will teach them how to write with this purpose. Your goal is to create stories or writing for readers that entertain them while also providing information that can have an impact on their lives. It’s about influencing readers through creative storytelling that calls upon your imagination and uses the thoughts inside your head. The deeper you dive into the art of creative writing, the more complex it can be. This is largely because it can be expressed in so many different formats. When you think of creative writing, your instinct takes you to stories and novels. Indeed, these are both key forms of creative writing that we see all the time. However, there are many other forms of creative writing that are expressed throughout the world.
What are the different forms of creative writing?
Looking back at the original and simple definition of creative writing, it relates to original writing in a creative and imaginative way. Consequently, this can span across so many genres and types of writing that differ greatly from one another. This section will explore and analyse the different types of creative writing, displaying just how diverse this writing style can be – while also showcasing just what you’re capable of when you learn how to be a creative writer.
The majority of students will first come across creative writing in the form of essays . The point of an essay is to present a coherent argument in response to a stimulus or question.  In essence, you are persuading the reader that your answer to the question is correct. Thus, creative writing is required to get your point across as coherently as possible, while also using great descriptive writing skills to paint the right message for the reader.
Moreover, essays can include personal essays – such as writing a cover letter for work or a university application. Here, great creativity is needed to almost write a story about yourself that captivates the reader and takes them on a journey with you. Excellent imagination and persuasive writing skills can help you tell your story and persuade those reading that you are the right person for the job or university place.
Arguably, this is the most common way in which creative writing is expressed. Fictional work includes novels, novellas, short stories – and anything else that is made up. The very definition of fiction by the Cambridge Dictionary states that it is the type of book or story that is written about imaginary characters and events not based on real people and facts.  As such, it means that your imagination is called upon to create something out of nothing. It is a quintessential test of your creative writing skills, meaning you need to come up with characters, settings, plots, descriptions and so much more.
Fictional creative writing in itself takes on many different forms and can be completely different depending on the writer. That is the real beauty of creative writing; you can have entirely different stories and characters from two different writers. Just look at the vast collection of fictional work around you today; it’s the perfect way to see just how versatile creative writing can be depending on the writer.
Similarly, scripts can be a type of creative writing that appeals to many. Technically, a script can be considered a work of fiction. Nevertheless, it depends on the script in question. Scripts for fictional television shows, plays or movies are obviously works of fiction. You, the writer, has come up with the characters and story of the show/play/movie, bringing it all to life through the script. But, scripts can also be non-fictional. Creating a play or movie that adapts real-life events will mean you need to write a script based on something that genuinely happened.
Here, it’s a perfect test of creative writing skills as you take a real event and use your creative talents to make it more interesting. The plot and narrative may already be there for you, so it’s a case of using your descriptive writing skills to really sell it to others and keep readers – or viewers – on the edge of their seats.
A speech is definitely a work of creative writing. The aim of a speech can vary depending on what type of speech it is. A politician delivering a speech in the House of Commons will want to get a point across to persuade others in the room. They’ll need to use creative writing to captivate their audience and have them hanging on their every word. A recent example of a great speech was the one by Sir David Attenborough at the recent COP26 global climate summit.  Listening to the speech is a brilliant way of understanding how creative writing can help get points across. His speech went viral around the world because of how electrifying and enthralling it is. The use of many descriptive and persuasive words had people hanging onto everything he said. He really created a picture and an image for people to see, convincing them that the time is now to work on stopping and reversing climate change.
From this speech to a completely different one, you can see creative writing at play for speeches at weddings and other jovial events. Here, the purpose is more to entertain guests and make them laugh. At the same time, someone giving a wedding speech will hope to create a lovely story for the guests to enjoy, displaying the true love that the married couple share for one another. Regardless of what type of speech an individual is giving, creative writing skills are required for it to be good and captivating.
Poetry & Songs
The final example of creative writing is twofold; poetry and songs. Both of these formats are similar to one another, relying on creativity to deliver a combination of things. Poetry can take so many forms and styles, but it aims to inspire readers and get them thinking. Poems often have hidden meanings behind them, and it takes a great deal of imagination and creativity to come up with these meanings while also creating a powerful poem. Some argue that poetry is the most creative of all creative writing forms.
Songwriting is similar in that you use creativity to come up with lyrics that can have powerful meanings while also conjuring up a story for people. The best songwriters will use lyrics that stay in people’s minds and get them thinking about the meaning behind the song. If you lack imagination and creativity, you will never be a good songwriter.
In truth, there are so many other types and examples of creative writing that you can explore. The ones listed above are the most common and powerful, and they all do a great job of demonstrating how diverse creative writing can be. If you can hone your skills in creative writing, it opens up many opportunities for you in life. Primarily, creative writing focuses on fictional pieces of work, but as you can see, non-fiction also requires a good deal of creativity.
What’s needed to make a piece of creative writing?
Our in-depth analysis of creative writing has led to a point where you’re aware of this style of writing and its purpose, along with some examples of it in the real world. The next question to delve into is what do you need to do to make a piece of creative writing. To phrase this another way; how do you write something that comes under the creative heading rather than another form of writing?
There is an element of difficulty in answering this question as creative writing has so many different types and genres. Consequently, there isn’t a set recipe for the perfect piece of creative writing, and that’s what makes this format so enjoyable and unique. Nevertheless, we can discover some crucial elements or principles that will help make a piece of writing as creative and imaginative as possible:
A target audience
All creative works will begin by defining a target audience. There are many ways to define a target audience, with some writers suggesting that you think about who is most likely to read your work. However, this can still be challenging as you’re unsure of the correct demographic to target. Writer’s Digest makes a good point of defining your target audience by considering your main motivation for writing in the first place.  It’s a case of considering what made you want to start writing – whether it’s a blog post, novel, song, poem, speech, etc. Figuring out your motivation behind it will help you zero in on your target audience.
Defining your audience is vital for creative writing as it helps you know exactly what to write and how to write it. All of your work should appeal to this audience and be written in a way that they can engage with. As a simple example, authors that write children’s stories will adapt their writing to appeal to the younger audience. Their stories include lots of descriptions and words that children understand, rather than being full of long words and overly academic writing.
Establishing the audience lets the writer know which direction to take things in. As a result, this can aid with things like character choices, plot, storylines, settings, and much more.
A story of sorts
Furthermore, great works of creative writing will always include a story of sorts. This is obvious for works such as novels, short stories, scripts, etc. However, even for things like poems, songs or speeches, a story helps make it creative. It gives the audience something to follow, helping them make sense of the work. Even if you’re giving a speech, setting a story can help you create a scene in people’s minds that makes them connect to what you’re saying. It’s a very effective way of persuading others and presenting different views for people to consider.
Moreover, consider the definition of a story/narrative arc. One definition describes it as a term that describes a story’s full progression. It visually evokes the idea that every story has a relatively calm beginning, a middle where tension, character conflict and narrative momentum builds to a peak and an end where the conflict is resolved. 
Simplifying this, we can say that all works of creative writing need a general beginning, middle and end. It’s a way of bringing some sort of structure to your writing so you know where you are going, rather than filling it with fluff or waffle.
A good imagination
Imagination is a buzzword that we’ve used plenty of times throughout this deep dive into creative writing. Every creative writing course you go on will spend a lot of time focusing on the idea of using your imagination. The human brain is a marvellously powerful thing that holds the key to creative freedom and expressing yourself in new and unique ways. If you want to make something creative, you need to tap into your imagination.
People use their imagination in different ways; some will be able to conjure up ideas for stories or worlds that exist beyond our own. Others will use theirs to think of ways of describing things in a more creative and imaginative way. Ultimately, a good imagination is what sets your work apart from others within your genre. This doesn’t mean you need to come up with the most fantastical novel of all time to have something classified as creative writing. No, using your imagination and creativity can extend to something as simple as your writing style.
Ultimately, it’s more about using your imagination to find your own personal flair and creative style. You will then be able to write unique pieces that stand out from the others and keep audiences engaged.
How can creative writing skills benefit you?
When most individuals or students consider creative writing, they imagine a world where they are writing stories for a living. There’s a common misconception that creative writing skills are only beneficial for people pursuing careers in scriptwriting, storytelling, etc. Realistically, enhancing ones creative writing skills can open up many windows of opportunity throughout your education and career.
- Improve essay writing – Naturally, creative writing forms a core part of essays and other written assignments in school and university. Improving your skills in this department can help a student get better at writing powerful essays and achieving top marks. In turn, this can impact your career by helping you get better grades to access better jobs in the future.
- Become a journalist – Journalists depend on creative writing to make stories that capture audiences and have people hanging on their every word. You need high levels of creativity to turn a news story into something people are keen to read or watch.
- Start a blog – In modern times, blogging is a useful tool that can help people find profitable and successful careers. The whole purpose of a blog is to provide your opinions to the masses while also entertaining, informing and educating. Again, having a firm grasp of creative writing skills will aid you in building your blog audience.
- Write marketing content – From advert scripts to content on websites, marketing is fuelled by creative writing. The best marketers will have creative writing skills to draw an audience in and convince them to buy products. If you can learn to get people hanging on your every word, you can make it in this industry.
These points all demonstrate the different ways in which creative writing can impact your life and alter your career. In terms of general career skills, this is one that you simply cannot go without.
How to improve your creative writing
One final part of this analysis of creative writing is to look at how students can improve. It begins by reading as much as you can and taking in lots of different content. Read books, poems, scripts, articles, blogs – anything you can find. Listen to music and pay attention to the words people use and the structure of their writing. It can help you pick up on things like metaphors, similes, and how to use your imagination. Of course, writing is the key to improving; the more you write, the more creative you can get as you will start unlocking the powers of your brain.
Conclusion: What is creative writing
In conclusion, creative writing uses a mixture of different types of writing to create stories that stray from traditional structures and norms. It revolves around the idea of using your imagination to find a writing style that suits you and gets your points across to an audience, keeping them engaged in everything you say. From novels to speeches, there are many forms of creative writing that can help you in numerous career paths throughout your life.
To really unlock your writing potential, try one of our creative writing courses . As mentioned right at the beginning, we have a range of courses for students of different ages, all built around creativity and creative writing.
 SkillShare: The 5 Types of Writing Styles with Examples
 Elements of Good Story Telling – UX Planet
 Simile vs Metaphor: What’s the Difference? – ProWritingAid
 Definition of Exposure by Merriam-Webster
 The Higher Purpose of Creative Writing | by Terveen Gill
 Essay purpose – Western Sydney University
 FICTION | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary
 ‘Not fear, but hope’ – Attenborough speech in full – BBC News
 Writer’s Digest: Who Is Your Target Reader?
 What is a Narrative Arc? • A Guide to Storytelling Structure
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What is Creative Writing?
Written by Scott Wilson
Creative writing is any kind of writing that employs creative literary or poetic techniques in the service of either fiction or non-fiction writing. It involves original composition and expressiveness of the individual author.
Ask ten creative writing professors what creative writing is, and you’ll get eleven different answers. Turn to the dictionary and the definition invokes invention and incorporation of imagination. But what are the limits of imagination? Where does invention begin?
Every sentence in every work ever written began as an act of creation in the mind of the writer.
Creative writing may be most easily defined by what it is not…
- Technical writing
- Professional or business writing
- Scholarly or academic writing
Creative writing is the entire body of the writer’s craft that falls outside the boundaries of the ordinary.
Yet you will find many entries in the canon of those fields that might also be considered creative writing. No one would consign Truman Capote’s groundbreaking In Cold Blood to the sterile cells of mere journalism. But that haunting novel is unquestionably also an important work of investigative reporting.
So, what is creative writing, if a non-fiction novel of a horrific quadruple murder falls into the same scope as a classic of American literature like To Kill a Mockingbird ?
It has to do with style and art. Creative writing goes to the heart of the individual expressiveness of the writer. It breaks the boundaries of the typical. That’s an exercise of artistic skill that can happen in any topic, toward almost any goal. And it’s the heart of what it is to be a writer, no matter what you write about.
Defining creative writing isn’t easy. Rooms full of the best authorities routinely disagree. But what is creative writing , isn’t the most interesting question to ask here. Instead, we would be best served by asking another:
Why Is Creative Writing Important?
Storytellers were plying their craft thousands of years before the written word was invented. The creative spark doesn’t belong to words. It may not even depend on language. It draws instead on a deep part of what it is to be human. Invention, imagination, the urge to create… these are all deep and vital parts of the human experience.
Creative writing is important because it is evocative.
That well of creativity flows forth in many arts and forms of expression. But in creative writing it has found a medium where it can be both preserved and shared. It’s a method of human connection that has no expiration date, no geographical or even cultural limit.
Writers touch the souls of their contemporaries first. But like Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Lady Murasaki, their reach may also span generations.
Creative Writing Fuels Communication in All Forms of Writing
Although fiction is the first refuge of creative writing, that expressiveness serves the purposes of just about any kind of author.
The goals of most other forms of writing are focused on various kinds of literal communication. A journalist seeks to convey the facts and the context of important news stories. Technical writers need to communicate the details of operating programs and machinery, clearly describing all kinds of minute details with zero ambiguity. Business communications are created with a view toward clarity and concision—helping readers get the main points of the piece quickly and without confusion.
Creative writing can also help to serve these purposes.
Creative writing taps into a different level of communication. While it may, and often does, aspire to other goals like offering clarity and detail, it also goes toward developing emotional connection. The reader will take away more than mere words from a piece of creative writing.
Creative Writing is Important For Making Other Kinds of Writing Compelling
Just as importantly, creative writing entertains. In a story about the importance of algorithmic and high-frequency trading, all kinds of technical details must be absorbed to make sense of the issues. Both technological and economic concepts have to be introduced. In a comprehensive article about the subject, readers from outside the field could be expected to nod off about two pages in.
But put the story in the hands of Michael Lewis, and you get Flash Boys , a New York Times Best Seller.
It’s not important that Flash Boys did well because it was entertaining, however. It’s important because the market trends and activities it described have real impacts on many of the readers. Retirement funds, college savings, family investments… all are affected by the story Flash Boys tells. Today, millions of readers who would never otherwise have understood how their investments were being handled can make an informed assessment… thanks to creative writing.
How To Separate Creative Writing From Less Creative Forms of Writing
In general, it’s safe to say that a piece of writing is creative when it makes use of literary devices such as:
- Narrative development
- Imagination and invention
In Cold Blood passes this test due to Capote’s use of characterization, plot development, and world-building. It’s considered today to be a pioneering example of the non-fiction novel, a paragon of the creative writing world.
The original crime reports, local newspaper articles, and subsequent court documents detail the same events with the same participants. Yet they are not works of creative writing. The incident is described in dry, straightforward, technical language. The timeline is linear and offered without consideration of pace or drama.
Both Capote and the authors of those other articles and documents set out to inform. But Capote’s goal was also to captivate.
New Journalism Tells the Story of How Creative Writing Has an Important Role in Non-Fiction
Books like Wolfe’s The Right Stuff mixed truth and dramatization, documentation and invention, to tell larger stories about serious events. In dramatizing those stories, New Journalism writers also drew more readers and achieved broader awareness of the stories.
At the same time, long-form New Journalism pieces, deeply researched and documented, were able to report stories in depth in a way that traditional journalism often did not. By invoking plot, characterization, and narrative structures, the New Journalists could keep readers involved in long and complex issues ranging from crime to politics to culture.
New Journalism is important in defining what is creative writing because it is clearly an example of both creative and journalistic writing. It demonstrates the ways that creative writing can serve other forms of writing and other kinds of writers.
Of course, it’s also possible to come at the divide from the other shore. Categories of writing that are clearly creative in nature include:
- Novels and novellas
- Flash fiction and short stories
- Plays and film scripts
These works incorporate elements of storytelling that may not always be present in other forms of writing. A newspaper article will often have a setting, action, and characters; creative writing will offer plot, pacing, and drama in describing the same story.
What is Creative Writing Coursework Like in College Degree Programs?
All university students are exposed to basic coursework in English language and communication skills. These all go to the elementary aspects of writing—the ability to construct a sentence, a paragraph, a paper. They teach grammatical rules and other elements that make a work readable to any reader of the English language.
Even the general education requirements in college programs touch on creative writing, however. Students may be assigned to write essays that explore creative styles and imagination. They’ll be assigned to read novels and stories that are time-tested examples of the finest kinds of creative writing. And they’ll be asked to explore their impressions and feelings, and to exercise their imaginations and analyze the intent of the author.
Creative writing programs go beyond the basics to touch the imagination of the writer.
Creative writing exists just on the other side of those general English and literature courses. Students in creative writing classes will be asked to take the extra step of creating their own stories using the techniques they have learned.
In fact, they may be encouraged to break the same rules that were so laboriously learned in their regular English writing classes. Creative writing works to allow writers to tap into their own imagination and emotion to forge a deeper connection with readers.
Student Workshops Offer an Interactive Way of Learning What Creative Writing Is All About
Creative writing degrees will go much further into developing a sense of what creative writing is. they continue to include many reading assignments. but instructors also introduce concepts such as:.
Genre is the method used to categorize written works. Creative writing programs explore the tropes and expectations that exist for different genres and deconstruct them for better understanding.
Story structure and form
The structure and form of a novel and a short story are very different. Creative writing programs explore different formats and how they impact creative storytelling.
Plot is not a universal feature of creative writing, but a good plot can make or break a creative work. Classes look at the features and composition of plot, and also teach plotting.
Voice, tone, and creative expression all come out of the narration of a piece of creative writing. Creative writing courses explore both the textbook forms of narrative and show how to use it to serve plot and story.
Style and rhythm
One clear feature of creative writing in all genres is that it rests on a sense of rhythm and of styling that other types of writing ignore. Many courses found in creative writing degree programs explore the ways in which writing style serves story and hooks the reader.
In addition to formal classes, students will better learn why creative writing is important and the purposes it serves through workshops. These informal gatherings are designed to foster discussion, to present examples of different types of writing, and to critique and hone individual creative writing skills .
Through that process, creative writing degrees help students better identify what creative writing is and how to use it effectively.
Creativity is Important No Matter What Your Career Goals in Writing May Be
Creative writing training allows writers in any genre to develop more complete, more meaningful, and more memorable ways to get a point across. Using the skills and techniques learned in creative writing courses can inject humor, gravity, and other sensations into any piece of writing. And those very techniques can improve concision and clarity.
Figuring out what creative writing is and what it is not, is the first thing you should leave behind in a writing career. The dry definitions of the dictionary or droning English professors are the last place you should look.
Creative writing is the process of engaging your imagination and talent to serve the purpose of whatever piece of writing you are working on. And that’s why creative writing is important.
A Guide to Descriptive Writing
by Melissa Donovan | Jan 7, 2021 | Creative Writing | 8 comments
What is descriptive writing?
Writing description is a necessary skill for most writers. Whether we’re writing an essay, a story, or a poem, we usually reach a point where we need to describe something. In fiction, we describe settings and characters. In poetry, we describe scenes, experiences, and emotions. In creative nonfiction, we describe reality. Descriptive writing is especially important for speculative fiction writers and poets. If you’ve created a fantasy world, then you’ll need to deftly describe it to readers; Lewis Carroll not only described Wonderland (aff link); he also described the fantastical creatures that inhabited it.
But many writers are challenged by description writing, and many readers find it boring to read — when it’s not crafted skillfully.
However, I think it’s safe to say that technology has spoiled us. Thanks to photos and videos, we’ve become increasingly visual, which means it’s getting harder to use words to describe something, especially if it only exists in our imaginations.
What is Descriptive Writing?
One might say that descriptive writing is the art of painting a picture with words. But descriptive writing goes beyond visuals. Descriptive writing hits all the senses; we describe how things look, sound, smell, taste, and feel (their tactile quality).
The term descriptive writing can mean a few different things:
- The act of writing description ( I’m doing some descriptive writing ).
- A descriptive essay is short-form prose that is meant to describe something in detail; it can describe a person, place, event, object, or anything else.
- Description as part of a larger work: This is the most common kind of descriptive writing. It is usually a sentence or paragraph (sometimes multiple paragraphs) that provide description, usually to help the reader visualize what’s happening, where it’s happening, or how it’s happening. It’s most commonly used to describe a setting or a character. An example would be a section of text within a novel that establishes the setting by describing a room or a passage that introduces a character with a physical description.
- Writing that is descriptive (or vivid) — an author’s style: Some authors weave description throughout their prose and verse, interspersing it through the dialogue and action. It’s a style of writing that imparts description without using large blocks of text that are explicitly focused on description.
- Description is integral in poetry writing. Poetry emphasizes imagery, and imagery is rendered in writing via description, so descriptive writing is a crucial skill for most poets.
Depending on what you write, you’ve probably experimented with one of more of these types of descriptive writing, maybe all of them.
Can you think of any other types of descriptive writing that aren’t listed here?
How Much Description is Too Much?
Classic literature was dense with description whereas modern literature usually keeps description to a minimum.
Compare the elaborate descriptions in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy with the descriptions in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (aff links). Both series relied on description to help readers visualize an imagined, fantastical world, but Rowling did not use her precious writing space to describe standard settings whereas Tolkien frequently paused all action and spent pages describing a single landscape.
This isn’t unique to Tolkien and Rowling; if you compare most literature from the beginning of of the 20th century and earlier to today’s written works, you’ll see that we just don’t dedicate much time and space to description anymore.
I think this radical change in how we approach description is directly tied to the wide availability of film, television, and photography. Let’s say you were living in the 19th century, writing a story about a tropical island for an audience of northern, urban readers. You would be fairly certain that most of your readers had never seen such an island and had no idea what it looked like. To give your audience a full sense of your story’s setting, you’d need pages of detail describing the lush jungle, sandy beaches, and warm waters.
Nowadays, we all know what a tropical island looks like, thanks to the wide availability of media. Even if you’ve never been to such an island, surely you’ve seen one on TV. This might explain why few books on the craft of writing address descriptive writing. The focus is usually on other elements, like language, character, plot, theme, and structure.
For contemporary writers, the trick is to make the description as precise and detailed as possible while keeping it to a minimum. Most readers want characters and action with just enough description so that they can imagine the story as it’s unfolding.
If you’ve ever encountered a story that paused to provide head-to-toe descriptions along with detailed backstories of every character upon their introduction into the narrative, you know just how grating description can be when executed poorly.
However, it’s worth noting that a skilled writer can roll out descriptions that are riveting to read. Sometimes they’re riveting because they’re integrated seamlessly with the action and dialogue; other times, the description is deftly crafted and engaging on its own. In fact, an expert descriptive writer can keep readers glued through multiple pages of description.
Descriptive Writing Tips
I’ve encountered descriptive writing so smooth and seamless that I easily visualized what was happening without even noticing that I was reading description. Some authors craft descriptions that are so lovely, I do notice — but in a good way. Some of them are so compelling that I pause to read them again.
On the other hand, poorly crafted descriptions can really impede a reader’s experience. Description doesn’t work if it’s unclear, verbose, or bland. Most readers prefer action and dialogue to lengthy descriptions, so while a paragraph here and there can certainly help readers better visualize what’s happening, pages and pages of description can increase the risk that they’ll set your work aside and never pick it up again. There are exceptions to every rule, so the real trick is to know when lengthy descriptions are warranted and when they’re just boring.
Here are some general tips for descriptive writing:
- Use distinct descriptions that stand out and are memorable. For example, don’t write that a character is five foot two with brown hair and blue eyes. Give the reader something to remember. Say the character is short with mousy hair and sky-blue eyes.
- Make description active: Consider the following description of a room: There was a bookshelf in the corner. A desk sat under the window. The walls were beige, and the floor was tiled. That’s boring. Try something like this: A massive oak desk sat below a large picture window and beside a shelf overflowing with books. Hardcovers, paperbacks, and binders were piled on the dingy tiled floor in messy stacks. In the second example, words like overflowing and piled are active.
- Weave description through the narrative: Sometimes a character enters a room and looks around, so the narrative needs to pause to describe what the character sees. Other times, description can be threaded through the narrative. For example, instead of pausing to describe a character, engage that character in dialogue with another character. Use the characters’ thoughts and the dialogue tags to reveal description: He stared at her flowing, auburn curls, which reminded him of his mother’s hair. “Where were you?” he asked, shifting his green eyes across the restaurant to where a customer was hassling one of the servers.
Simple descriptions are surprisingly easy to execute. All you have to do is look at something (or imagine it) and write what you see. But well-crafted descriptions require writers to pay diligence to word choice, to describe only those elements that are most important, and to use engaging language to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. Instead of spending several sentences describing a character’s height, weight, age, hair color, eye color, and clothing, a few, choice details will often render a more vivid image for the reader: Red hair framed her round, freckled face like a spray of flames. This only reveals three descriptive details: red hair, a round face, and freckles. Yet it paints more vivid picture than a statistical head-to-toe rundown: She was five foot three and no more than a hundred and ten pounds with red hair, blue eyes, and a round, freckled face.
10 descriptive writing practices.
How to Practice Writing Description
Here are some descriptive writing activities that will inspire you while providing opportunities to practice writing description. If you don’t have much experience with descriptive writing, you may find that your first few attempts are flat and boring. If you can’t keep readers engaged, they’ll wander off. Work at crafting descriptions that are compelling and mesmerizing.
- Go to one of your favorite spots and write a description of the setting: it could be your bedroom, a favorite coffee shop, or a local park. Leave people, dialogue, and action out of it. Just focus on explaining what the space looks like.
- Who is your favorite character from the movies? Describe the character from head to toe. Show the reader not only what the character looks like, but also how the character acts. Do this without including action or dialogue. Remember: description only!
- Forty years ago we didn’t have cell phones or the internet. Now we have cell phones that can access the internet. Think of a device or gadget that we’ll have forty years from now and describe it.
- Since modern fiction is light on description, many young and new writers often fail to include details, even when the reader needs them. Go through one of your writing projects and make sure elements that readers may not be familiar with are adequately described.
- Sometimes in a narrative, a little description provides respite from all the action and dialogue. Make a list of things from a story you’re working on (gadgets, characters, settings, etc.), and for each one, write a short description of no more than a hundred words.
- As mentioned, Tolkien often spent pages describing a single landscape. Choose one of your favorite pieces of classic literature, find a long passage of description, and rewrite it. Try to cut the descriptive word count in half.
- When you read a book, use a highlighter to mark sentences and paragraphs that contain description. Don’t highlight every adjective and adverb. Look for longer passages that are dedicated to description.
- Write a description for a child. Choose something reasonably difficult, like the solar system. How do you describe it in such a way that a child understands how he or she fits into it?
- Most writers dream of someday writing a book. Describe your book cover.
- Write a one-page description of yourself.
If you have any descriptive writing practices to add to this list, feel free to share them in the comments.
Does descriptive writing come easily to you, or do you struggle with it? Do you put much thought into how you write description? What types of descriptive writing have you tackled — descriptive essays, blocks of description within larger texts, or descriptions woven throughout a narrative? Share your tips for descriptive writing by leaving a comment, and keep writing!
Further Reading: Abolish the Adverbs , Making the Right Word Choices for Better Writing , and Writing Description in Fiction .
I find descriptions easier when first beginning a scene. Other ones I struggle with. Yes, intertwining them with dialogue does help a lot.
I have the opposite experience. I tend to dive right into action and dialogue when I first start a scene.
I came across this article at just the right time. I am just starting to write a short story. This will change the way I describe characters in my story.
Thank you for this. R.G. Ramsey
Great tips and how to practise and improve our descriptive writing skills. Thank you for sharing.
You’re welcome, Bella.
I have read many of your articles about different aspects of writing and have enjoyed all of them. What you said here, I agree with, with the exception of #7. That is one point that I dispute and don’t understand the reason why anyone would do this, though I’ve seen books that had things like that done to them.
To me, a book is something to be treasured, loved and taken care of. It deserves my respect because I’m sure the author poured their heart and soul into its creation. Marking it up that way is nothing short of defacing it. A book or story is a form of art, so should a person mark over a picture by Rembrandt or any other famous painter? You’re a very talented author, so why would you want someone to mark through the words you had spent considerable time and effort agonizing over, while searching for the best words to convey your thoughts?
If I want to remember some section or point the author is making, then I’ll take a pen and paper and record the page number and perhaps the first few words of that particular section. I’ve found that writing a note this way helps me remember it better. This is then placed inside the cover for future reference. If someone did what you’ve suggested to a book of mine, I’d be madder than a ‘wet hen’, and that person would certainly be told what I thought of them.
In any of the previous articles you’ve written, you’ve brought up some excellent points which I’ve tried to incorporate in my writing. Keep up the good work as I know your efforts have helped me, and I’m sure other authors as well.
Hi Stanley. Thanks so much for sharing your point of view. I appreciate and value it.
Marking up a book is a common practice, especially in academia. Putting notes in margins, underlining, highlighting, and tagging pages with bookmarks is standard. Personally, I mark up nonfiction paperbacks, but I never mark up fiction paperbacks or any hardcovers (not since college).
I completely respect your right to keep your books in pristine condition. And years ago, when I started college, I felt exactly the same way. I was horrified that people (instructors and professors!) would fill their books with ugly yellow highlighting and other markips. But I quickly realized that this was shortsighted.
Consider an old paperback that is worn and dog-eared. With one look, you know this book has been read many times and it’s probably loved. It’s like the Velveteen Rabbit of books. I see markups as the same — that someone was engaging with the book and trying to understand it on a deeper level, which is not disrespectful. It’s something to be celebrated.
Sometimes we place too much value on the book as a physical object rather than what’s inside. I appreciate a beautiful book as much as anyone but what really matters to me is the information or experience that it contains. I often read on a Kindle. Sometimes I listen to audio books. There is no physical book. The experience is not lessened.
I understand where you’re coming from. I used to feel the same way, but my mind was changed. I’m not trying to change yours, but I hope you’ll understand.
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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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