A blank page staring back at you can be daunting at the best of times, but writing creatively is one of the most enjoyable parts of English and a skill which everybody can access. There are three main questions that you should ask yourself before you tackle a creative writing activity: ‘What am I going to write about?’, ‘How do I begin?’, ‘How can I make it interesting?’
What am I going to write about?
Generating ideas for creative writing really shows us how interdisciplinary English can be. We are all different: we have different interests, we watch different TV shows and films, we read different books. Use these things to your advantage! You can take inspiration from things you have seen or know about. If you are someone who plays gymnastics outside of school, get some of that technical jargon into your writing as this will make your writing more authentic and interesting.
In your English exam, it is likely that you will be asked to write about something based on a statement or image. The task could state, ‘Write about a time you were frightened’. Pause. Think. Take a minute. While your classmates are automatically writing about dark forests and haunted houses, you need to think about all the different angles you could take this statement from so that your writing stands out from the rest.
You could try the following angles:
- Write about a nightmare (writing as if you were still in the nightmare).
- Write about a visit your younger self-made to the terrifying dentist.
- Write about a time you watched a horror film about clowns and you thought you saw one of your clown toys move.
There is no single right way to interpret that statement – try to think outside the box.
How do I begin?
The next hurdle you will usually encounter is starting your writing piece. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that you want to hook the reader in, so you need to give them a reason to read on. The most common techniques for starting is using a short sentence as this has an impact on the tone and it can speed up the pace, building tension as a result. Many writers also begin with a rhetorical question where they directly address the reader, for example: Do you remember a time when you felt frozen to the spot with fear, every fibre of your being on edge with your heart frantically racing?
Some writers also use something called ‘in medias res’. This is Latin for ‘into the middle of things’ and is where the narrative opens not at the beginning of the story, but in the middle, usually at a crucial point in the action. This immediately gives the reader incentive to read on and find out what this all means and what is happening. The key thing to remember when figuring out how to begin your writing piece is to have an air of mystery: don’t reveal your best parts all at once, but equally open with enough impact to interest someone to read on.
How can I make it interesting?
This is the final question we ask ourselves. Vocabulary is the key here: it spices up any story or description. Stay away from basic adjectives like ‘scared’ and cliché phrases such as ‘she ran as fast as lightning’. Be original. Literary techniques that promote figurative language such as similes and metaphors will help make your writing interesting.
Remember – you are a reader yourself! Think about what you tend to find interesting (plot twists, the unknown, cliff-hangers, action) and use that. Of course, you cannot cater to all of this in one writing piece, but you can carefully select and be intentional about achieving these effects in your writing.
You are not trying to write the next Harry Potter series. Often it is by describing the most ordinary and small ideas in vivid detail that your reader will be most engaged. It’s not always what you write about but the way you write it. If you can make eating a slice of cake sound like the most dramatic and engaging thing ever to be done, then you may just be the next J.K. Rowling….
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