Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Challenging Creative Writers To Be More Creative

I have always referred to myself as a creative writer. But recently I've started wondering…what does that even mean? Well, creativity is being able to think of new and imaginative ideas. So I figured that a creative writer must mean a writer who brings new stories and schemes to their readers. That’s when I realized that very few people can actually call themselves by that name. Why?

Creative writers have stopped being creative.

Don’t believe me? Well, let me explain to you why I think this.

We have developed “rules” for writing. They’re not explicit rules you can pop up on the internet, but most of us follow them without even wondering why.

Why does grass have to be green?

Why do elves almost always live in forests , only eat vegetation, and "understand the ways of the nature"?

Why do we have to stick to mythical creatures like dragons, unicorns, and vampires? Why can’t we make up our own fantasy animals?

Why is darkness always evil? Likewise, why is black usually considered a bad-guy color?

Why do dwarves always have to be grumpy, fierce, and often fat?

Why do large objects always “loom overhead” in a threatening manner?

Why always a sword or a bow and arrow?

Do you see where I’m going with this?  We have set up a certain pattern when it comes to describing things or creating our own worlds.  And there is absolutely no reason for us to do this. We’re supposed to be creative, for heaven’s sake! So why can’t we create from our own minds, not use templates from other books?

I think part of the reason we’ve started to do this is because it’s easy. It’s easier to draw from the things around us and then put them in our stories. And it’s not wrong to do this. Sometimes it’s okay to follow the herd. But other times it’s important to be creative. Pick your battles.

This post is a challenge. I’m challenging you to start challenging yourself to regain your creativity. Every time you sit down to write, ask yourself why.

Why are you describing the sky as blue? I personally think that purple would be pretty.

Does your evil female character need to have long fingernails and blood-red lips? That’s kind of cliché.

Why do your elves look just like your humans, only skinnier and with pointed ears? Wouldn’t it be neat if they had a wildly different skin color or hair color? Or maybe just a subtle difference, like eyes that shift shades?

Does your bad-tempered character really have to have red hair? Because honestly, the people I know that have red hair are not generally angry or mean.

When your character comes up against disappointment, does his heart have to “sink”? I’m sure there are better ways to describe that feeling.

And this puzzles me the most: Why on earth do characters always have to have a special talent using either a sword or a bow and arrow? And why do they always use daggers for their second weapon of choice? Neither of those make sense to me. What happened to axes, throwing stars, staffs, or even slingshots? I understand that a sword might be easier to use in a duel, but why do they have to be limited to only a sword and dagger? What about a sword and a throwing star? Or a staff and an axe?

Come on, people! We’re writers. We can create entire worlds, bring characters into existence. We put words on pages and make them come alive. Don’t be afraid to try something different! I know it can be scary. But I’m not saying that you have to do something extremely weird like creating a character with rainbow colored skin…though you could if you wanted. It might even be kind of neat if done the right way. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be so quick to write down the first thing that comes to mind. Explore it a little. Stop and wonder why exactly you are describing something the way you are. If there’s no good reason, then don’t write it down. Think of something new and different.

We writers have a different lot in life. We’re expected to be a little strange. How many professions do you know of where it is acceptable – even encouraged – to be whimsical, creative, or downright eccentric? I don’t know about you, but I think that’s something we should take advantage of…at least until they take us away and put us in our own special white padded rooms. But until then, I think creative writers owe creativity a closer look.
What I’m trying to say is: Be creative. Think outside the box…wonder why it’s a box and not a triangle or a circle. Heck, you can even write like the box doesn’t exist! Just find a way to be imaginative.  

What do you think? Am I way off in thinking that many of us writers don’t show our creative side as much as we should? I’m interested to hear your thoughts!

Related articles:
Challenging Writers to Create Stories With Meaning
Be A Writer, Not An Author
Write What YOU Want To Write: Why You Shouldn't Follow The Current Writing Trend

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  1. Some very interesting points raised there. I think you are right that it can be very easy to grow stale in our writing and "play it safe", sticking to the same ideas and concepts and cliches. You can see, especially when it comes to series of books, how things have become almost formulaic, the sparkle getting lost somewhere along the way. I always feel sad when that happens, it's a bit like seeing the creative part of an author dying before your eyes, and if the "great" can fall into that trap, how much easier it must be for everyone else!

    There is a careful balance though - there are reasons why people come back to these things again and again. They work. If done well. I think it's what you said about thinking about what you are writing, and knowing *why* you write something. To write that the sky is blue or the elves have pointy ears as an informed choice, after considering various options and deciding it fits best, is very different from just writing it because "that's what you do". That's the key isn't it? Staying alert, thinking all the time and questioning, over and over, what you are putting down on paper/screen.

    And now I'm rambling on so I'll stop. Great post though and definitely food for thought - thank you!

  2. A good vocabulary is helpful in such regards. Looking at various thesauri, specialty dictionaries. That's what I do to try to stay fresh :)

  3. It is an incredible article regarding challenging creative writers.I have learned a lot of interesting points.Keep it up writing great stuff.

    creative writing help

  4. This was a very good post. You also have to consider that some things are done because that's the way things are. Example: the sky is blue because we're on Earth and there are scientific reasons for why the sky is blue and not purple. If you live on Mars, the sky is kind of an orange color and the sunsets are blue (go figure) but there are scientific explanations for why that is.

    Even when you are writing a fantasy, these rules apply but as the writer you have to be aware of "why" the rules are there and how they apply. When you use particular set mythology the reader also expects certain things. People expect a dwarf to be short, perhaps stocky too, elves are expected to be humanoid with pointed ears, a sphinx is a lion with a woman's head. There's nothing that stops a writer from creating a new creature, but a lot of thought goes into doing that.

    I agree that writers should be challenged to expand their imagination and make those worlds tangible and real.

    1. Good points! I didn't know Mars has an orange-ish sky. Learn something new every day. =) Wouldn't it be interesting to create a world with different sets of laws/different chemicals, thus making it possible for the sky to be any color you want? Same with the rules of gravity or the size of plants/animals. You just gave me some interesting things to think about. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  5. The rules are not just those governing writing. There are rules that govern our culture that can restrict a writer's desire to expand in ways that may not be accepted. For example, a movie like "Blazing Saddles" and a book like "Lolita": could either be produced now?

  6. I just found your blog today, and I love it! I am an aspiring Christian YA novelist too. This article hits the nail on the head of one of the reasons writing appeals to me so much-the ability to create new things. The second reason is the ability to encourage and teach others. To me, when a novel accomplishes both of these things, especially in YA, it can create something awesome and memorable. I think that is why people love Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter so much because the writers thought outside the box and wrote things that hit people down deep and made them think. We need more writers that will do that.

    1. Yay! So glad to hear that. It's always nice to connect with other YA Christian writers. I love what you said about writing being used to encourage and teach. My motto is "stories to encourage and inspire," so I'm of the exact same thought-process as you. =) It's the stories that were written for a purpose that leave a print.

  7. I recently wrote curriculum for an art class that looked at something similar. The instructions are to create a park scene with a tree and cloud, and then compare how similar/different they all look. A park could be lush and green or littered and deserted. It could be a skate park, a water park, or Cental Park. The tree could be gnarly and leafless. The cloud could be the fluffy white thing in the sky or it could be a cloud of something, like insects or a thought cloud over someone's head. The directions are intentionally vague, but so many students imagine similar things. All of that to say...I love your call for creativity and for thinking for ourselves.

    1. That is one of the coolest writing excersises I have ever heard of! I would love to see the different pieces of art people come up with. As you said, I'm sure a lot of the drawings would be similar, but you'd get a few wildly different ones from those who have learned to see the world creatively.

      I'm glad you enjoyed my article. Thank you for the neat comment!

  8. I'm no writer, I'm just a roleplayer. But you raised interesting points here.

  9. Here's a question

    What's a Kerakoi?

    No? You have no idea do you?

    Makes sense, cause it's a creature that I made up.
    Basically, a Kerakoi is a fish, except it can be any color of the rainbow, it's super smart, and it loves showing off.
    It's actually really fun to make your own mythical creatures.
    Like making up your own kinds of dragons.
    My siblings and I made up a creature called an Aquanis, which is an blue wolf with gills.
    Great post as always Hannah

    1. These creatures sounds so cool, Kiddy! I love it when authors create their own animals. =D It also makes me smile because I know they're having a lot fun doing it. Keep up the amazing work and thanks for the fun comment!

  10. Dear Madam,
    I hope you would be fine.
    I am really your fan and i thought if would had a time and nothing to do other i really like to read your books and articles which are really life changing inspiring .
    Thanks and regard.

    yours sincerely

    Birahmani Ghulam Haider

  11. Heh, I must not be doing too awful bad in that department. My main character is a shapeshifter that uses claws, a dagger, and a sling.

  12. Love it! Your posts give me strength. My main character uses fingerless gloves that whip out deadly ribbons for her to slash around! Thanks for the mystical animal props, too!

  13. I think you'll be happy to hear that I have elves (and fairies) in my story, and they are CRAZY UNCONVENTIONAL. lol. xD

  14. I think you'll be happy to hear that I have elves (and fairies, actually) in my story, and they are CRAZY unconventional. xD

  15. I have a half-elf who has a battle axe. How many elves use axes?

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  17. I am a 13 yo writing my first novel. I pride myself on being creative and unique in my writing, for example, I don't use any black and white storylines in any of my short stories or the novel I am working on (the novel is a freedom v. safety conflict). It takes place in the afterlife so there are angels, demons, and humans, as well as a few creatures of my own creation. I think that unicorns, dragons, and elves are cliché and annoying so instead I have the custos a human like race that can melt metal with a touch and bleed gray instead of elves and dwarves. Instead of orcs, I have Tenebris creatures which often have a human like conscience and the only foods that can sustain them are the flesh of humans, demons, and angels. They aren't bad, it's just what they have to eat to survive. There is a demon in my story, he uses a scythe because demons are all provided scythes at their initiation. One of the angels uses a hatchet since he isn't the strongest physically and can't lug a sword around. His older sister, the other angel, uses throwing knives and daggers. One of the humans uses a battle axe and knives while the other uses a one handed short sword. The 'bloody lady', as she is called by the angels, is a custos and uses a machete and a survival slingshot for her weapons. There is a red head who is sweet and cracks a joke whenever possible. They all come from different backgrounds. The angel siblings' parents disappeared when the oldest was 13. She raised them after that. There is the abused child who still loves her parents because they raised her. Another was adopted to the US from Scotland after her mother died in childbirth and her father was unknown. An all american boy that has loving parents and owns a business that has him travelling frequently until his plane crashes. A retired police officer that committed suicide thanks to the horrible things he had seen. There is a girl who distances herself from her parents to protect them from the repercussions of what she had done. Is this creative enough or should I rethink a couple things?

  18. I think an issue is that people forget that they are creating a different world. They just assume their world is like ours. You have raised some very important points. I love your blog posts, they give me good ideas and also are just nice to read because I can.

  19. Than u so much i am a teen righter and am going to tri this

  20. My elves' skin, eye and hair color are tinted different rainbow colors based on nationality in their world, and I do have a character who can change her skin coloring like a chamelion=) As always your post was witty, wacky, and overall wonderful:)


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