This page is intended to help students with creative writing. Perhaps, all of a sudden, you have to write a story. The blank page remains blank! In your panic, do not resort to over-graphic descriptions of blood, horrendous ways of dying or sexual encounters!
You have to write well – not write pages! Here are some points to consider – you might like to use them as a checklist:
You may wish to write in the first, second or third person.
The first person narrator (‘I’ ‘me’ etc) gives the reader the chance to see inside your persona’s mind as the narrative develops. It also draws a convenient veil over what the narrator does not know. This can be very useful in a variety of ways: for instance, you can withhold another character’s dislike of your narrator or increase tension by present him/her not understanding what is going on.
The second person narrator (‘you’, ‘your’ etc) can be an effective, although difficult method of writing, which brings your reader to experience the events directly. Consider the effect of this:
You scan the arid wilderness for wisps of rising dust.
The third person narrator (‘s/he’, ‘his’/’her’ etc) has the benefit and the difficulty of omniscience. A narrator who can see into the minds of all the participants can give different perspectives. On the on the hand, some feel that maintaining control over all parties and elements is more difficult to carry off.
The persona. The first or third person narrator can be very different from you: this adds depth to your writing and certainly impresses examiners and teachers. To do this well, recreate the ‘voice’ of someone you know: this might be an older relative or even a character on the TV. S/he might have an attitude, an accent and use certain types of words and phrases. The narrator can even be a narrator inside the story of your main narrator For instance, you might write:
‘You know X, well, she sent me an email by mistake. Have a look at this …
Here you have established a trouble-making narrator: one who perhaps loves to spread scandal and rumour. You could proceed with X’s actual email, which might convey anguish and despair. When done, your main narrator could make infantile or nasty comments, so revealing his/her nature which would show as a contrast to that of X.
DIALOGUE and TEXTS
Keep dialogue to a minimum. It can be very effective when the speaker is very different from the narrator or when, perhaps, a short phrase is used to interrupt the narrator or present a different voice and perspective.
BEGINNINGS and ENDINGS
You need a good opening paragraph to attract attention. If the title is e.g. ‘My Day’ do not start when you wake up! It could be as simple as:
Getting to Northampton was unexpectedly difficult.
Do not have final paragraphs along the lines of: ‘and then I woke up’, ‘and then I died’ or the dreaded three dots: they are the ultimate cop-outs!
The conclusion will ideally have a twist or a reflective observation, which might perhaps be ironic or show insight. (Note that a character’s insight does not necessarily have to be rationally sound: a thief might have an unrealistic solution to not getting caught next time!)
Always avoid a sagging middle!
Introduce tension subtly. For instance, stories about being frightened will usually rely on tension being built up. You can achieve this by gradually including e.g. unsettling descriptive detail or conflicting thoughts.
WORD and SENTENCE LEVELS
Use the senses: identify colour, shape, movement, smell, taste, touch and sound.
Use ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ vocabulary, where appropriate:
core vocabulary = those everyday, ordinary words such as ‘sit’, ‘talk’, ‘walk’.
Non-core vocabulary = specialised, specific words such as ‘slouch’, ‘gabble’, ‘stroll’.
Vary sentence types and paragraph length
Vary punctuation and use the semi colon, if you know how.
The events in your story do not have to be presented in chronological order. Flashbacks are a useful device, perhaps starting in the present and returning to events in the past.
The story side of your writing presents the emotional, attitudinal and perspective changes, which take place in the character(s) as a result of the events.
ARE YOU STUCK?
If you are given no guidelines to start you off, imagine a place, try to see it, hear its noises and smell its smells. What possible associations might there be with this place: personal, historic? Imagine an event gradually develop before your eyes. Write a concluding observation/thought/reflection. Redraft – and redraft the redraft.
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