We have a name for the tendency to go on a reasonable number of random walks: we call it “creativity.”

Common misconceptions

  • Creative writing is about creating ‘literature’ and not genre stories: it is more so a question of quality than content
  • Writing is an innate talent: writing is a tool that can be honed and practiced
  • No real world application for creative writing: almost all conversations, media, arguments, involve some form of convincing the other side! what better way to do that than through story telling
  • The riddle of storytelling
    • Imagine two groups of early humans competing for the same resources who lived pretty much the same
    • The first group gossiped and told stories during their leisure time while the second group continued working
    • We know the first group survived because that’s us! So why is story telling so evolutionarily beneficial? It’s a form of simulation (see also: behaviourist approaches to consciousness)

Classic Story Structures

  • Freytag’s Pyramid
    • Exposition
    • Rising Action
    • Climax
    • Falling Action
    • Denouement
  • Kurt Vonnegut’s Shape of Stories
  • Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” (story wheel)
    • Character is in a zone of comfort
    • But they want something
    • They enter an unfamiliar situation
    • Adapt to it
    • Get what they wanted
    • Pay a heavy price for it
    • Then return to their familiar situation
    • Having changed
  • Three Act Structure
    • Act I: Get your guy up a tree
    • Act II: Throw rocks at him
    • Act III: Get him outta the tree

Aspects of Stories

  • McGuffin: an object, device, or event that is necessary to the plot and the motivation of the characters, but insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself.
  • The universal grammar for stories: character + conflict = change
  • Plot: the how of the story. Explicit. A series of actions, taken by characters, towards their wants, needs or desires
  • Theme: the why of the story, the “so what”. Should be
    • Universal
    • Specific
    • Implied
  • Summary (general information, tell) vs Scene (specific descriptions, show)

Writing Pitfalls

  • Structural ambiguity: missing important story beats (e.g. Four undramatic plot structures) — you need character, conflict, and change
  • Cliché/Familiar phrasing: don’t do things that are incredibly overdone
  • Awkward exposition: having conversations that characters would never actually have for the sake of reader understanding
  • Abstractions: don’t invoke abstractions, make it concrete, reify it
  • Vagueness (unclear) vs Ambiguity (up to interpretation)
  • Deus Ex Machina: god from the machine, heavy handed use of magic or coincidence to solve a conflict
  • Characters: be aware of your defaults
    • There not always a person but instead an element of storytelling — a vehicle on which the action of the story plays out

Storytelling techniques

  • Voice
    • How your characters speak, their voice and diction
    • The language you use as the author
  • Irony
    • Verbal irony: the device by which we say one thing and mean another
    • Dramatic irony: the device by which the audience has crucial information that the characters do not
    • Cosmic irony: our understanding of the human condition, in which efforts are thwarted despite our best intentions


  • Assonance: repetition of a vowel sound between consonants that may or may not match
  • Consonance: repetition of the consonant that concludes a word or syllable
  • Alliteration: repetition of an initial consonant sound
  • Rhyme
    • True rhyme: both the vowel and consonant of the last accented syllable correspond
    • Internal rhyme: the end of one line rhymes into the beginning or middle of noather
    • Off-rhyme: near-rhyme, slightly discordant or ‘not quire there’ rhymes (four-inch, door hinge)
  • Line: a typographical break representing a slight oral pause or hesitation
    • It adds a kind of emphasis both to the last word of the line and the first of the next line