The Nuts and Bolts of Creative Writing
Session 1: What is it, Anyway?
Discovering Forms and Elements of Creative Writing
4 Main Types of Creative Writing
- Fiction (examples: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery)
- Non-Fiction (examples: Auto/biographies, Memoirs, Essays)
- Poetry (examples: Epic poems, Haikus, Songwriting)
- Performance (examples: Playwriting, Screenwriting)
Question for the Class: Other Types of Examples?
5 Elements of Creative Writing
- Character – Answers Who?
Point-of-view Character – the character by whom the story is viewed
Protagonist – the main character
Antagonist – opposes main character
Minor/Supporting Character – interacts with pro/antagonist to progress the story
Foil Character – has traits opposite of main character
- Plot – Answers What?
Storyline – usually a beginning, middle, and end
Usual Plot Summary – A conflict is presented to the Protagonist, followed by the build-up, and ending with a climactic resolution with a conclusion/summation.
- Setting – Answers When, Where?
Location and/or Time
This is where you set the ‘rules’ of your story.
- Theme – Answers Why?
What the author is trying to convey through the story.
- Style/Voice – Answers How?
1st Person vs. 3rd Person
Past, Present, or Future Tense
Word Choice, Tone, Imagery
Sentence Flow/Length, Structure
Assignment for Next Time:
Bring in a favorite example of a type and/or element of creative writing.
Session 2: Putting Pen to Paper…
And Other Starting Points
How to Get Started
Share examples of type and/or element
“Writers write… others just talk about writing.”
You can’t call yourself a (fill in the blank) just by talking about it – put in the work.
*Most common question people ask: How do I get started?
2 Classic Story Starters
- A Good Opening Line – A ‘Hook’
Something gripping, clever, interesting, or all three
Charles Dickens prime example: (A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities)
Question for the Class: Other Examples of Good Opening Lines?
- Strong Mental Image – Something to Build Around
Does the picture stir a story in your mind?
Many of Stephen King’s books began this way: (Cujo and Carrie)
Question for the Class: Other Examples of a Strong Mental Image?
In Class Exercise
- Take 15 min, partner up, and practice brainstorming opening lines and images
Here’s what I don’t want:
Don’t want you to flush out a story or even worry if it makes sense
- Share what you came up with as a group
*Positive comments only – not ready for criticisms as of yet
- Keep your work for future
Assignment for Next Time:
Bring in an example of a good opening line, strong mental image, or both. Note: It doesn’t have to be from literature.
Session 3: “Once Upon a Time…” Then What?
How to Stay Started
Share examples of good opening lines, strong mental image, or both
Erskine Caldwell (author of Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acre) expressed this blessed autonomy of fictional characters: “I have no influence over them. I’m only an observer, recording. The story is always being told by the characters themselves.” (Free-Ed.Net)
Question for the Class: What Do You Think Caldwell Meant by That?
- Write what you know – Write what’s true
To be real, it has to be authentic – it has to be something inside of you
Not everyone can write in every genre; that’s ok – it takes all kinds
- Tell the story as it comes
Don’t assume you know how it ends – let it happen organically
Don’t force a story/point/etc – this may not be the right time for it, and that’s ok
- “Don’t be afraid to let your darlings die,” Stephen King (paraphrase)
Just because it’s good writing, doesn’t mean it belongs – don’t force it
Save it for later in your ‘Ideas/Projects’ folder – you can revisit it
Don’t be afraid of the backspace key – not everything is genius
- Never assume the audience is too smart or too dumb
Don’t leave out important information, but don’t state the obvious
Allow the reader to use their mind and imagination
- Don’t concern yourself with word count
Great books are anywhere from 10-500 thousand words – quality not quantity
Make your words count, but don’t necessarily count your words
- See the project through to completion before you start on the next
Writing is the fun part, but don’t skip ahead before you’re done, or you never will be
- Enjoy your writing, because not everyone else will
Critics and even friends won’t always ‘get it’
Write for an audience of one
Example: Ernest Hemingway – Critics torched Across the River and Into the Trees, and many believe The Old Man and the Sea was his jabbing response
Assignment for Next Time:
Take an idea from last week (opening line or mental image) and begin a writing project: any type, any genre, any length. Come ready to share work and/or experience with class.
Session 4: Good Writers Are Good Readers
Recognizing Quality and Appreciating the Craft
Share work and/or experience of writing project
- Writers are the first Readers
If you’re writing doesn’t excite you, then…
- Never take the easy way out
Real genius isn’t obvious, and your writing shouldn’t be either
Group Discussion Covering ‘The Nuts and Bolts of Creative Writing’
Question for the Class: What are your favorite books/works, and why?
Question for the Class: What sorts of things make up ‘good writing?’
Question for the Class: Are we aware of those things while we’re reading?
Question for the Class: What sorts of things make up ‘bad writing?’
Question for the Class: How do we know it when we see? Or do we?
Question for the Class: How do these questions help us in our writing?
Question for the Class: What tricks can we learn?
Question for the Class: What pitfalls can we avoid?
- The ‘Math’ of Writing
Summation: Give 150%, because that’s what it takes
Write because you love it; because you’re passionate about it; because you have to.