An oft-cited distinction in creative writing is between “first” and “second” dimensions. The first dimension refers to the traditional distinction between poetry and prose. The second dimension refers to the distinction between fact and fiction. There are different nuances in how one defines these terms, but in general, the first dimension captures the idea that a poem is a piece of art that uses language to convey some kind of emotion or mood, and the second dimension captures the idea that a work of fiction uses an imaginative scenario as a vehicle for conveying meaning.
How Can Prose and Poetry Mix?
The mixing of prose and poetry is a fundamental tenet of creative writing. Aspiring writers are often taught that one shouldn’t mix genre and that a story should be told in a single, uninterrupted stream of thought. The mixing of these elements is considered a stylistic choice and is often seen as a way for a writer to further distinguish themselves from other, more traditional writers. However, the blending of these elements can be a powerful way to explore a subject, tell a story, or simply give a sense of human emotion or feeling. A short story, for example, can combine elements of both to great effect.
Why Would You Want to Tell True Stories?
Aside from mere stylistic choice, the desire to blend elements of fact and fiction can stem from a writer’s interest in a particular type of story. True stories can be quite compelling, and readers often have an easier time relating to characters when the events of the story are based on real life events. A true story can help to bring characters to life and give the work more resonance and authenticity.
The desire to write a factional work can also stem from the writer’s interest in exploring a certain subject or issue. The distinction between the actual and the imagined is often blurred in a truly factional work, and the use of real life events and people can lend credibility to the story. If a story is based on events that actually occurred, it lends an air of authenticity to the work, which may be appealing to readers. In this way, a writer can both stay true to the facts of a particular event and also add a layer of invention that gives the narrative greater depth and emotional impact.
Second Dimension in Creative Writing Exercise
To illustrate how the second dimension of creative writing can be applied to a piece of writing, here is an exercise that can be done as part of a creative writing course. Take a few minutes and read the following short story, entitled ‘The Ballad of Good and Evil’ by Ernest Hemingway. This is a fictional piece, but all of the events and scenes described in the story are based on true events.
‘The Ballad of Good and Evil’
- The first thing you will need to do to complete this exercise is download the ‘Ballad of Good and Evil’ by Ernest Hemingway from Project Gutenberg. It is free, and it is available on their website.
- After you have downloaded the story, take a few moments to read it carefully. This will help you get into the mindset of the character, Josephine.
- When you are ready to begin your creative writing assignment, open up a word processor or a notebook in which you will compose your story. Begin by simply writing the first few lines of the narrative. Take your time and make sure that these lines are interesting, well-written, and fit the ‘Ballad of Good and Evil’ setting.
- As you continue to write, try to make the scenes as real as possible. Whenever you use a real name, give the character a distinctive voice. Make sure that your writing accurately reflects the tone and pace of ordinary speech. You can use the dictionary to check the pronunciation of unfamiliar words. Be natural and try to write in the first person. As you edit your work, look for ways to make the writing more vivid, interesting, and authentic.
- When you are done, re-read your work. Be objective and critical of your own work, but don’t be afraid to admire it as well. Self-editing can be a vital part of the writing process, so take the time to do it carefully. The final product should reflect the story you set out to tell, but it should also be a piece of art that will engage and impress your reader. In creative writing, there are no mistakes, only differences of opinion.
Notice how in this story, the author doesn’t use quotation marks to indicate speech. This is referred to as “free indirect discourse”, and it is a technique often used by literary authors to create a sense of authenticity in their writing. When used effectively, this technique can add a sense of credibility to an otherwise fictional work.
The Power of Imaginative Scenarios
In creative writing, the power of an imaginative scenario can’t be overstated. The ability to create a world of your own and populate it with characters that are both real and imagined is what makes fiction so effective and interesting. The author William Faulkner once said “The writer’s job is to entertain, and he who entertains, wins.” This is true, but it goes further than that. The writer’s job is to entertain and engage with the reader, and there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the more the reader is involved in the story, the more they will be entertained. The reason why these elements are so appealing to the reader is because they allow them to escape into a different world for a little while. While reading, the reader can get lost in the imaginative scenarios that are presented to them and forget that the story is actually supposed to be “real”. This is a dangerous tool, of course, because the more the reader gets invested in the story, the more they will want to know what happens next. The risk of including too much description is that it can turn the reader off the story before they even start. The key is to find the right balance between fact and fiction, and when done well, the resulting product can be quite compelling.
A powerful technique that can be used to add more layers to a story is the technique of “show, don’t tell”. This is where the writer demonstrates something to the reader, rather than simply describing it. There are many examples of this technique in literature, and here is one from Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’. The story opens with the following line:
- “They had not seen each other for several years…”
- The important thing to note here is that the author is not telling the reader that Jake and Littleny have not seen each other for several years. Rather, the author is presenting this information directly to the reader through the medium of narrative. This is an example of “show, don’t tell”, and it is a common technique in both fiction and non-fiction. In general, when used effectively, this technique can make a story more compelling and interesting. A good rule of thumb is to put yourself in the shoes of the reader. Ask yourself, “If I were reading this and didn’t know anything about the characters or the situation, how would I go about figuring out what is happening?”
- There are many tips and techniques for writing a winning story, but arguably one of the most vital aspects of creative writing is sticking to your ‘STORY’
- The world of fiction is a dangerous place, and it is a place that many people want to avoid at all costs. It should be treated with the respect it deserves, but only if you know how to write a story that will engage and impress your reader.