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The Mechanics of Creative Writing

The Mechanics of Creative Writing 


It's called creative writing for a reason: It's creative. While writing a story, book, poem, or article can be considered creative, the tools you use to write those things are what sets creative writing apart from just writing – or stringing sentences together.

Figurative language
The figurative meaning of a phrase or sentence is the meaning that exists aside from the obvious meaning. It can be said that figurative language is a symbol for the true meaning.  

Here's an example: 

He ran so fast the leaves blew off the trees. 

In the example above, "the leaves blew off the trees" can be a symbol for the true meaning. It can be a symbol for how fast the man ran. By thinking of it this way, it becomes easier to understand figurative language and incorporate it into your creative writing. 

Figurative language typically gives us a feeling about its subject. But rather than giving us the feeling by stating a surface meaning, such as "he ran so fast," it uses more descriptive, thought-provoking language to create an emotion or a feeling.  

Again, we refer to the example above: 

He ran so fast the leaves blew off the trees. 

If we would have just written, "He ran fast," the feeling and imagery contained in those lines wouldn't have been so strong and so clear. In fact, without using figurative language such as this, it's a safe bet to say that the language we used in our writing would be ordinary – not extraordinary as great writing requires.  

Parallel structure
Parallel structure simply means you use the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas are of the same importance.  Parallel structures can happen with words, phrases, or clauses. Typically, you join parallel structures using the conjunctions "and" or "or." 

Using Words

Here is an example of parallel structure using words: 

Jane likes shopping, reading, and sleeping. 

Note that we've put the parallel structures in red. We've joined them with the conjunction "and." 

Using Phrases 

Here's an example of parallel structures using infinitive phrases: 

Jane likes to shop, to read, and to sleep. 

You can use "to" in front of just the first verb, or in front of all of them.  

The one thing you cannot do is mix forms.  

For example, it's not a parallel structure if you write, "Jane likes shopping, reading, and to sleep."  Remember, a parallel structure is a similar pattern of words, phrases, or clauses, so if you mix forms, they are no longer similar patterns – or parallel structures.  

Using Clauses
A parallel structure using clauses is shown below: 

The mother told her three children that they should eat all of their dinner, that they should watch television quietly, and that they should be in bed no later than 9 o'clock.  
See if you can see the parallel structures in this sentence.  We've highlighted them below:
The mother told her three children that they should eat all of their dinner, that they should watch television quietly, and that they should go to bed no later than 9 o'clock.  

A parallel structure that begins with clauses must continue with clauses. Also, if you switch the verb from active to passive, then you will break the structure.

If you took old-school creative writing classes years ago, you were probably told repetition in anything but poetry is a no-no. That's not necessarily true today. There is bad repetition, but there's also good repetition. Good repetition achieves a desired effect, while bad repetition can simply be defined as using the same word or phrase too many times within a sentence, paragraph, or paragraphs. 

Here's an example of bad repetition: 

Adam stumbled inside the house and closed the door behind him. He stumbled over a pair of shoes that his mother had warned him to pick up earlier that day. 

In this example, you can see we repeated the word "stumbled."  This is bad repetition. You should simply find another word to use. 

Now let's talk about good repetition and how to use it.  

There are different types of repetition you can use in your writing. Since there are hundreds of literary terms, we're just going to cover the first five. This will give you the direction you need to use repetition successfully in your creative writing endeavors. 

This term is Greek, and it means "doubling."  This is the type of repetition that occurs when we repeat the last word of a sentence to start a new sentence. It gives a rhythm to your writing and can make it flow. 

Here's an example: 

"Women love to shop: shop in stores, shop online, and shop in other women's closets."

Anaphora is for emphasis and it means to "carry back."  It repeats a sequence of words at the beginning of neighboring clauses, and it works well with dialogue and narratives. 

"We shall learn to use figurative language. We shall learn to use parallel structure. We shall learn to use repetition."

This is the repetition of word in a contrary sense. In Greek, it means opposition or opposing position. 
"I wasted time and now time doth waste me."   -Shakespeare 

With this type of repetition, you emphasize a point by repeating it several times throughout a sentence.  It means "dwelling" in Latin. When you use this type of repetition, you dwell on a point.    

"'He's gone off his rocker!' shouted one of the fathers, aghast, and the other parents joined in the chorus of frightened shouting.
'He's crazy!' they shouted.
'He's balmy!'
'He's nutty!'
'He's screwy!'
'He's batty!'
'He's dippy!'
'He's dotty!'
'He's daffy!'
'He's goofy!'
'He's beany!'
'He's buggy!'
'He's wacky!'
'He's loony!'
'No, he is not!' said Grandpa Joe."
-Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."
-Douglass Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This is the repetition of word or phrase that is broken up by several other words. Its meaning comes from the Greek meaning "cut in two."  It's used to convey deep emotion.  

"Scott Farkus staring out at us with his yellow eyes. He had yellow eyes! So help me, God! Yellow eyes!"
-Ralphie Parker, A Christmas Story

Diction is the choice and use of word and phrases in your writings. It especially applies to the correctness, clearness, and effectiveness of the words you choose.   In creative writing, diction can mean two different things. It can simply mean your word choices, as we've just talked about.   Look at the example below: 

He usurped the throne. 

In the example above, look at the word "usurp." It means "to seize and hold by force without legal right." However, not all readers may know that. Always use a simple word when a simple word will do.  Remember, most people read on a junior high level.

Instead, write: 
He seized the throne. 

The sentence still says the same thing, but the second one is clearer than the other.    

Diction can also apply to dialogue that you create. If you're writing about a Southern character, you want to make sure the dialogue is effective at portraying them as Southern. Therefore, you want to use correct diction. 

You wouldn't have the character say, "Let's go to dinner." 

Instead, you might have the character say, "Y'all wanna head to dinner now?" 

The term voice in creative writing is also known as persona. It's probably the most important aspect of your writing, because it will set your work apart from every other writer's out there. Your voice is the quality that makes your writing unique. It conveys your attitude, personality, and character. If you write in first-person narrator, it can convey the personality, attitude, speech, and thought patterns of a character. 

Your voice is something that will develop as you write more and more. You may use different voices for different pieces. In fact, it's necessary most of the time to do just that. You will use a different voice for a journalistic piece than you would for an editorial. You'll use a different voice for a historical romance than you would for a mystery. Voice brings your work to life. 

"Voice is the sum of all strategies used by the author to create the illusion that the writer is speaking directly to the reader from the page."
-- Don Fry, quoted by Roy P. Clark, Writing Tools. Little, Brown, 2006


Style and voice are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference.  Voice is the word choice, the personality, and the attitude. Style, however, is much broader than that.  Style is the way you write your books, stories, articles, etc. Style refers to whether you write long sentences, or short, concise ones. It can also refer to if a writer writes from several points of view or just one. What's more, style can also refer to the way a writer spells words. 

Making sure that your style is consistent throughout a body of work lends to the sophistication of your writing. If you have a character that talks with a southern twang early in the book, make sure it carries throughout the book. On the other hand, if you spell "judgement" (British English) in one place in a body of work, make sure you do not spell it as "judgment" (American English) later on. You can always create a style sheet to make note of things like this so that you do not forget when creating longer pieces or sequels.
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