The true definition of creative writing is "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 both instances, creative writing is an art form because you have to step out of reality and into a new realm, inspired by your mental meanderings. In this capacity, you're able to express feelings and emotions instead of cold, hard facts, as we do in academic writing. Let's keep our creativity caps on and explore this vast universe some more.
The best way to define creative writing is to give a list of things that are and are not considered creative writing. Here are things that do fall within this category:
Forms of writing that are not considered creative writing include:
Imaginations start to flow when we engage in creative writing. The majority of writing, by far, is creative. Not only can it be a creative outlet, it can also be therapeutic. Many psychologists recommend creative writing as a way to express our feelings. With it, you can pretend anything you want and help a potential reader do the same.
If you feel you have a story inside you, you probably do. Why not try to let it out? It's as simple as sitting down, pulling up a blank document, and letting it all flow out of your fingers. Here are some creative writing techniques that can lead you to literary gold:
Read: How can you create what you don't know? The more you read fiction and creative nonfiction, the more you'll naturally adopt its natural rhythm and flow.
Write with Abandon: Don't sit down and try to edit every word you write. Rather, if you have an idea for a story, sit down and start typing. Type until your fingers ache and don't look back, not even once. After the story is out of your mind and onto the screen, then you can consider the next tip.
Read Your Work: Even after you've gotten it all out, it's still not time to edit. Rather, it's time to read your mental meanderings once and see what you like. See which scenes jump out at you. Remember which bits of dialogue are particularly powerful.
Create a Scene List: This sounds odd, but you'll want to outline your scenes after you've written that first draft of your story. Organize the plot line and make sure it flows. Then, you can check any facts that need to be corroborated and make sure you like the direction you've taken.
Proofread and Edit: Finally, once you've written your creative writing piece, read it, analyzed its flow, and researched your facts, it's time to proofread and edit. Feel free to tighten up any "fluffy" parts of the story. Check your punctuation around quotation marks, as well as other grammatical concerns.
For a much deeper dive, be sure to read Get Creative: How to Write a Short Story. It'll help you take those imaginings out of your mind and, perhaps someday, into a published anthology.
What is creative writing? At its core, it's a form of entertainment. It's also a form of art that abounds in all our favorite TV sitcoms, movies, books, poems, and more. Let's explore a few forms:
Poems provide great examples of creative writing. In fact, they're almost exclusively "from the heart" and fanciful. Here's an excerpt from Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter":
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 stories can be narrative, funny, mysterious, satirical, fantasy, or historical. Oftentimes, stories include a lesson for the reader. Here's an excerpt from Margaret Barrington's "Village Without Men," from The Glass Shore: Short Stories by Women Writers from the North of Ireland by Sinead Gleeson:
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.
For more, enjoy these Examples of Short Stories.
Novels are certainly creative. That's why we crack open a new book or fire up our e-readers. We look forward to dipping in and out of new worlds, be they fanciful or relatable. Here's an excerpt from Dark Witch, written by famed romance writer Nora Roberts:
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.
If you have your eye on a novel, be sure to read these Tips on Writing a Bestseller.
Eager to test your own creative writing skills? With a quick Google search, you'll find yourself knee-deep in writing prompts. They're usually just a few lines. But, they can serve as the tipping point to a truly remarkable story. Here are some of our favorites:
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."
It's May 30th. She knows what that means. Every year, on this date, she wakes up and relives the day her mother died. Perhaps this time, she'll be able to do something different.
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.
A young retiree walks into his new home. The house is empty, save for some patio furniture the previous owners left behind. He sets his suitcase down on the kitchen floor and hears a loud thump from the bedroom.
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.
She gathered all her savings, moved to an island, and gave herself six months to write a book. When she arrived at her Airbnb, she wandered around a little. As she stepped out on her balcony, she saw...
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.
She couldn't believe it. Her flight was so delayed it would've been faster to drive to Florida. She got up, prepared to stomp her way to the bathroom, and bumped into...
She knew she was drowning. The waves kept crashing on her head. With one final push, she filled her lungs with air, screamed for help, and desperately struggled for the shoreline.
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...
He sat alone in his office, long after everyone had gone home for the night. He hated his boss. His entire team resented him. Yet, he'd moved his wife and daughter across the globe to start a new life here. He picked up a pen and pad and started to hatch a plan.
In the middle of her junior year of high school, her parents moved her to a new city. She hated them for it. When she heard the school bus pull up, she ignored her father's, "Have a good day, honey," got on the bus, sat in her usual seat, and put on her headphones.
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 is whatever you want it to be. A story can blossom from virtually anything. It can come from a babysitter who finds a disturbing picture or a sad-looking man sitting alone in his office. Anything can be a story prompt.
Being creative and "pretending" is part of being human. Why else would there be so many books, plays, movies, and songs? Give it a try. Sit down, open up a Word doc, type one of these story starters, and have at it. Even if you never try to get published, creative writing will be a lifelong and loyal friend.
Whenever you hit the "proofread and edit" stage of your writing, be sure to review these 10 Tips for Writing Clear, Concise Sentences.