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Creativity in Story Telling

 Creativity in Story Telling



Story, story, story. What is the story of your life? What is the story of the breakfast you had this morning? Or the story in your heart you have dreamed of satisfying all your life but fear you never will? In creative writing, stories are the big deal we come to the fountain for. Maybe it is an artificial limitation of sorts, but a story is a container that truly can hold almost anything. A dream, a vision, a formula for car wax, a birth, a death, the path of an atom, you name it. In our universe, if it cannot be described by a story, for human beings it does not exist.

This article is about creativity and creative energy, so story analysis, which can be rather dry, may not be the all-in-all of your process. The student of stories can learn all about telling stories as written works: plot, character, dialogue, theme, description, point of view, and so on. Creatively, because writing is a solitary, perhaps less-than-dynamic activity, your energy flow is like a craftsman building a house or a desk of wood: You have to measure and cut, design and plan, and fit the pieces together like a puzzle; and you have to do all this within the broad confines of what supposedly makes great stories work well.

Suppose someone is in the business of selling people stories he or she writes on dried banana peels. One might question the wisdom of such an entrepreneur. The buyer may say, "Well, as a human being like yourself, Mr. Storyteller, I have the story of my own life and days to occupy me, and I can observe the stories of the lives of others, and things going on around me just as well as you, and I also have other sources of wonderful or maybe terrifying tales to keep me occupied. So, uh, what else have you got?"

Meanwhile, in modern times, the story has become such a vast and massively profitable enterprise that a First World citizen wandering around his or her home or shopping somewhere literally cannot escape an encounter with floods of books, movies, television shows, advertisements, songs, articles, news accounts, and even verbal or staged stories. These are presented in such volume, and in such amazing and powerful new forms at great cost and expense, that Earth may well be called Story Planet in some future day. For you who enjoy the creative process of writing stories and may wish for success, what does this state of affairs mean in terms of your story written on your banana peel?

For one thing, you can be creative and more fully alive or vital as an artist in inverse proportion to how attached you are to the current trends and mainstream wisdom of the cultural arts. In other words, how original will your stories be if you are just copying other artists doing the same thing as you? In writing for money, you want to be current and trendy, but what about just writing for yourself, like a diary or family history?

A lot of people in previous generations would keep a volume while on a journey, such as by wagon train across the Great Plains. It was written for other reasons, never intended to be published. But the creative self is at work there, too. Writing just for yourself or loved ones is a time-tested,  true form of expression and devotion, and a special way to keep special memories. Great works have been produced this way, including The Diary of Anne Frank or the letters of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., written from jail. The captain's log that is kept on sailing ships (or starships, if you are a fan of television's Star Trek) can make some great reading, indeed.

The creative contribution of the creative fiction writer is to imagine fictional events and situations others might learn from. This means you are making things up for your neighbor's benefit, similar to a teacher. In the news business or the legal world, this can be considered a crime. Like James Bond's license to kill, the poetic license of fiction is your license to thrill. One muse puts it this way:

"The dreamer awakes, The shadow goes by; When I tell you a tale, the tale is a lie. But ponder it well, fair maiden, good youth: The tale is a lie, what it tells is the truth." -- The Dreamer Awakes, Alice Kane, Broadview Press,1995.Courtesy of Michael Katz.

Most people are great at spinning a yarn, whether they admit it or not. For a great deal of storytelling, always go back to what is really going on: sharing details about something that happened, be it fictional or not. The best fiction seems true or believable, no matter how outlandish or fantastic. "Make me believe," is the request of the audience, and you may happily oblige.

In every case, though, it is the human connection, the act of sharing, that opens the floodgates of your creative juices. In the case of a diary or captain's log kind of writing, you are still writing for another person, maybe a distant descendant or family member or a military tribunal deciding the fate of a newly discovered planet. Malachai, the messenger, is your creative path; if you are well-treated, or the message-receiver has cookies and milk for you after your long journey, so much the better for you.

The best advice in learning to write stories is to learn the basics of plot, character, dialogue, theme, and so on. Then, once you have these ideas, apply them like a housebuilder uses a blueprint. You can be creative and free or whimsical within those guidelines, too, or even invent new story structures of your own. As you build your stories, however, never forget that the humanity of the creative act lies much deeper than in mere words; it is your heart and soul you are opening to the wide world for viewing, and this can be painful, cleansing, or joyful.

In this way, your stories will come alive and your experience and inventive self will be rewarded.

By the way, what did you have for breakfast today, anyway?
Writing, and Punctuating, Dialogue
Want to learn more? Take an online course in Creative Writing.
When we write dialogue, there is a specific way that we need to punctuate what is said.  Many writers have trouble with this, it seems to be one of the first things we forget when we leave school. 
This is simply a section that will brush up on those rules.  If you'd like a more in-depth review, a great book that can help is Writing Dialogue, by Tom Chiarella  
Back to our review:
To sett off quoted material, you'll use a comma.  This sets the quoted bits off from the main body of the sentence, in sentences that contain quotes.  If the main body of work precedes the quote, your comma will appear between the end of the main body and the beginning of the quote. Sound confusing? It's really not.  Here's an example:
Michelle said, "Hand me that book."
The boy thought, "Why doesn't anyone understand what I'm trying to say?"
For those two examples, when you are setting the quoted material--what is said or thought, off from the speaker, the comma is outside the quotation marks.  But if the main body follows the quote, the comma (or other punctuation) goes inside the quotation marks.
For example:
"I am so happy!" she screamed.
"I think you are going to win," Jim told Alexis.
The comma is there (or the other end punctuation) to show that this is still part of the same sentence.  If it were not, then you would put a period to end the sentence.
For example:

"I think you are going to win."  John then turned to Alexis and shook her hand. 
Now, if the spoken words are broken up, here is how you would punctuate the sentence:
"Well," she said, "there goes the ball game." 
The main body, above, comes between the first piece of what is said and the second.  Note that your punctuation is inside the quotation marks on both sides.

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