It can seem difficult to narrow down the answer to the question, “What is creative writing?” Since creative writing encompasses many types of writing, exploring examples helps define this art form. Use the definition of creative writing and creative writing tips to learn how to become a creative writer.
What Is Creative Writing? Simple Definition and Tips
Creative Writing Definition
The true definition of creative writing is:
original writing that expresses ideas and thoughts in an imaginative way
It's the "art of making things up" or putting a creative splash on history, as in creative nonfiction. In any instance, creative writing makes you step out of reality and into a new realm inspired by your own imagination. With creative writing you're able to express feelings and emotions instead of cold, hard facts, as you would in academic writing.
Creative Writing Types and Categories
Because it is such a broad topic, the best way to define creative writing is to browse a list of things that are and are not considered creative writing.
Types of Creative Writing
Your imagination starts to flow when you engage in creative writing. The majority of writing, by far, is creative. With it, you can pretend anything you want and help a potential reader do the same. Different types of creative writing are found in these writing categories:
- short stories
- television scripts
Types of Writing That Aren’t Creative Writing
Any type of writing that is very formal, precise and reliant upon facts isn’t considered creative writing. Forms of writing that are not considered creative writing include:
- academic writing
- technical writing
Creative Writing Tips and Techniques
If you feel you have a story inside you, you probably do. Why not let it out? It may seem as simple as sitting down, pulling up a blank document and letting it all flow, but sometimes that blank document can be intimidating. Use some creative writing techniques and tips to help you get creative.
Be an Avid Reader
Reading all types of writing can spark ideas in your own imagination. The more you read fiction and creative nonfiction, the more you'll naturally adopt their natural rhythm and flow.
Keep an Idea Book
Inspiration for creative writing can strike at any moment. Be prepared with a notebook dedicated to ideas or even a notes app on your phone. When you periodically browse your ideas, you might find that combining a couple of seemingly unrelated ideas sparks a new piece of writing.
Ask What if Questions
To tap into your creativity, ask yourself questions that start with “What if?” For example, if you know you want to write about a cat, you might ask yourself “What if the cat is best friends with a mouse?” or “What if the cat doesn’t look like an ordinary cat?”
Write with Abandon
If you have an idea for a story, sit down and start typing, without editing as you go. Just let the ideas flow out of your mind. After the story is out of your head and onto the screen, then you can consider revising.
Read Your Work Out Loud
Even after you've gotten it all out, it's still not time to edit. Read your idea out loud to hear how it sounds. See which scenes jump out at you. Remember which bits of dialogue are particularly powerful.
Create a Scene List
You might want to outline your scenes after you've written that first draft of your story. This helps you organize the plot line and make sure it flows.
Proofread and Edit Out Fluff
Now it's time to proofread and edit. Even though your work is meant to be creative and original, it should still follow standard writing rules. While imagination is key to creative writing, you still need to remove any "fluffy" parts of the story.
Examples of Creative Writing
At its core, creative writing is a form of entertainment. It's also a form of art found in most of your favorite TV sitcoms, movies, books, poems, and other mediums.
Poems provide great examples of creative writing. In fact, they're almost exclusively emotional and imaginative. This excerpt from Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter" is an example of creative writing because it is not based in fact and uses a lot of imagination.
If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,
That they could get it clear?'
I doubt it,' said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
If you'd like to try your hand at a poem, check out these tips on writing poems.
Short Story Example
Short stories can be narrative, funny, mysterious, satirical, fantasy, or historical. Often stories include a lesson for the reader. This excerpt from Margaret Barrington's "Village Without Men," from The Glass Shore anthology (edited by Sinéad Gleeson) is a great example of using creativity to evoke emotion.
Weary and distraught, the women listened to the storm as it raged around the houses. The wind screamed and howled. It drove suddenly against the doors with heavy lurchings. It tore at the straw ropes that anchored the thatched roofs to the ground. It rattled and shook the small windows. It sent the rain in narrow streams under the door, through the piled-up sacks, to form large puddles on the hard, stamped, earthen floors.
Novels are certainly creative. Readers look forward to dipping in and out of new worlds created in novels, be they fantasy or realistic. This excerpt from Dark Witch, by famed romance writer Nora Roberts features a real place, Ireland, with a fictional character and story.
The cold carved bone deep, fueled by the lash of the wind, iced by the drowning rain gushing from a bruised, bloated sky. Such was Iona Sheehan's welcome to Ireland. She loved it. How could she not? She asked herself as she hugged her arms to her chest and drank in the wild, soggy view from her window. She was standing in a castle. She'd sleep in a castle that night. An honest-to-God Irish castle in the heart of the west.
Story Starters for Creative Writing
Start your own creative writing with one of these prompts:
- You're sitting at your desk staring blankly at the computer screen. Just then, a piece of paper floats down and lands in front of you. It says, "Tomorrow will be your last day."
- She entered her parents home to clear out their possessions. What was she going to do with all their belongings? When she got to their safe, she keyed in the code, opened it up, and saw the most disturbing picture inside.
- She got off the plane with only her tattered Louis Vuitton tote and one small suitcase. She had enough cash to start her new life in Edinburgh but absolutely no idea where to go once she left the airport.
- When he awoke, everyone in the apartment complex was gone. The parking lot was empty. The front gates were open. As a matter of fact, the typically busy roads were completely abandoned and eerily silent.
- He liked his solitude. It didn't matter that others called him a recluse and a hermit. But, when he saw her move in across the hall, he couldn't help but wander over to say hello. When he saw her face, he was astonished. She looked just like...
- She whistled into the wind to call up her dragon. When he arrived, she hopped up on the balcony railing, saddled her ride, and set sail for...
Creative Writing for Life
Creative writing is whatever you want it to be, so long as it's not a completely factual story. A story can blossom from virtually anything because being creative and pretending is part of being human. You can use creative writing to express your own feelings or to entertain others. Now that you know how to compose a piece of creative writing, explore tips for engaging readers.