Imagine yourself up, late at night, with a blank page staring back at you. You may be banging your head against the keyboard, hoping against hope to come up with an idea. It’s at times like these you may think to yourself, “How do I become a better writer?”
We may not have all the answers, but we do know a few techniques that can help unlock your creativity. Like anything, creativity takes effort to develop.
Most people don’t develop a talent overnight (unless, of course, it’s the antagonist of your story who somehow developed a superpower in their sleep).
Creative writing has many techniques. Some can help you find your strengths while others may expose your weaknesses. It’s on you, the writer, to test and experiment with what works best for you.
Here are some ways to improve creative writing skills:
Improve your point of view
Let’s say you have a scene that just isn’t working. While it moves the story forward, it doesn’t seem to capture the reader’s attention the way you want it to. It might even be necessary for the development of the plot, but for whatever reason, it’s just not clicking.
When we’re confronted with a difficult scene, it can be tempting to scrap it altogether. But this isn’t always the way to go. Sometimes all it takes is a paradigm shift for a scene’s narrative framework.
The next time you’re stuck, consider writing it from the perspective of another character. This might not only help the scene, but it also makes you, as the writer, consider a whole host of other observations to include you may not have thought to consider.
It may not even be a scene you keep in the piece of work. But it will help develop your story as well as your ability to think and write creatively. You’ll consider another perspective, making your writing stronger and more fully realized.
Strengthen the emotional appeal
Emotion is a powerful part of every piece of creative writing. If you struggle with capturing different emotions in your work, try this exercise: think about your strongest emotional memory or a time you had a strong emotional response. Write one page on that experience. It doesn’t have to fit in any kind of format or framework. It can be free-writing. The important thing is to tap into the emotion you experienced and let it bleed onto the page.
If you want to frame it a specific way, you can write to someone you had an argument with or write a letter to someone you’ve lost. The intent of this writing exercise is not to share your work but tap into an expressive part of yourself.
Turning to your writing can also be a productive solution on those emotionally draining days, or as Bruce Flow over at the Writing Cooperative likes to call it, using “writing as a punching bag on bad days.”
Make your settings more vivid
When you describe scenes in your work, you walk a fine line between being too descriptive and not descriptive enough. One way to do a better job at describing scenes in a compelling manner is to keep a journal to write about the world around you on a regular basis.
If you’re a frequent flyer, keep a travel journal to talk about all the places you’ve gone. If you’re a heavy sleeper or an avid napper, keep a dream journal by your bed. Keep space in these journals so you can embellish, add details, and practice what aspects of your experience require heavy details and which ones don’t.
When you keep track of the places you visit and push yourself to describe what you see, you give yourself something to file away and use for later. You never know when a creative piece of work is going to pay off for you, even if it’s much later.
Drill down on dialogue
This next suggestion may seem a bit creepy at first, but it is highly effective. Make a habit of jotting down conversations you hear while out in the world, then add to them. This can help you create a more naturalistic dialogue. When you add to these conversations, throw in plot twists or added conflict to make them seem more compelling as stories. Test the limits of your imagination.
Believable, crisp dialogue can turn a good story into a great story. The best way to get good at writing creative, relatable dialogue is by recording dialogue you hear from real people having real conversations. Expanding on those conversations will help build your strength as a creative writer. You’ll use real-life situations as a base and test yourself on how much you can heighten them to create a great story.
Bring your character to life
One of the trickiest parts of writing fiction is writing compelling characters the audience wants to either root for, root against, or in either case, read more about. You can have the most well-plotted story in literature, but without characters that fascinate the audience, you’ll have a hard time keeping anyone’s interest. That’s why it’s critical to work on your ability to build engaging, three-dimensional characters.
This is where a character workbook can be extremely helpful. By using workbooks and brainstorming techniques, you can more fully develop and flush out character details. This is a great example of a workbook you can use to really work on building stronger characters.
You can use elements of people you observe in real life to help build your characters. Add these notes to your workbook. After all, the best characters are usually ones we can relate to.
The important thing to remember when honing your creative talent is that when you work privately, no one can see inside your notebooks or journals. Give your mind permission to explore without fear of judgment.
Following the tips outlined above can help you think more imaginatively. Remember: creativity is a muscle like any other in your body. It gets stronger the more you exercise it. Keep challenging yourself to write creatively as much as possible so that when you sit down to work, your mind will be ready to blossom with ideas.
Do you want more ways to improve creative writing?
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