Understanding Creative Writing

I was asked about Creative Writing a day ago and that sets me thinking about this subject. Creative writing is not a new subject but there always seems to an aura of mystique surrounding the subject.  And this is not the first time that I have been asked about this.  From my experience, the allure of creative writing doesn’t lie with the various components making up the subject but rather, the teaching methodology behind it.

For this article, I will not be touching on the teaching methodologies though. These techniques are an art and will always remain an art.  For this article, I will like to discuss the more tangible components which is somewhat of a scientific nature. In another words, these concepts can be learnt in a systematic way and grasped. Here goes:

  • Story development: This is the most important component in creative writing. Humans love stories, which is why stories are proliferating through the ages. This is both a good and not-so-good thing. The good news is that literature is everywhere and we can draw both insights and inspirations from them. The flip side of this is that originality is harder to achieve now that it seems that everybody have written all the stories from all possible angles. Here’s the secret: this is so untrue. The secret to writing interesting and insightful stories is through the minute details of our daily lives that we live. Get a journal. Jot down the experiences that we experiences in every details, including the places that we have been to, conversations that we have and interesting characters that we come across on a daily basis. Flip through this book for insights whenever we want to pen a scene or chapter for our story or novel. Doing so will give our stories both a human touch and a realistic feel.
  • Character development: One of the primary driving forces behind any story is the characters in it. I still remember the characters from Terry Brook’s
    “The sword of Shannara” fantasy series and who can forget Aragorn and Frodo from J.R.R. Tokkien’s “Lord of the Rings”? Having interesting characters in our stories is almost a must but how do we find such interesting characters? Do we create it? While some writers do that, my recommendation is to observe interesting characteristics of individuals from our daily lives and create characters based on the hybrid of these individuals. Think about it: don’t most characters that we create in our stories originate somehow from people we have come across or read about? When we watch a TV serial or movie, don’t we find most characters that we like similar to ourselves or the people around us in some ways?
  • Dialogue: Conversations drive narrative forward. Observe the movies and TV serials that we watch. When the dialogue is mundane and dull, don’t we want to leave the show alone and go on to the next film or serial that catch our interest? When we hear an interesting dialogue, don’t we – as viewers or readers – want to keep on listening or reading to find out what is going to happen next? Interesting dialogues evokes emotions, spikes our interest, creates intrigue, pique our curiosity and nourishes our minds. The question is: how do we create that? It’s quite simple, really. Just create conversations that relates to real life and that’s it. But to do this, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of the various characters.  This is empathy and Emotional Quotient (EQ) at work. I will recommend including some degree of Intrapersonal Intelligence as well.
  • Setting/Environment: The environment is very important. Think about it. We usually watch a movie based on the setting that the film is based. Some of us love romantic settings in Paris, some of us simply adore heroic figures set in ancient Rome, some of us love the comedic characters from fictitious countries while the rest of us love the poignancy of lost love wthin an Asian context. There is no way that as writers, we can please everybody. We can either choose to select to write on a niche area that we are strong in or cater to the widest possible readers in an identified setting. But what’s important is that we enjoy writing the story in the process. Passion is everything.
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