Creative writing is a phrase that might confuse you. Like many terms in the English language, it can have a variety of meanings, depending on who you ask and what you want from them. In order to properly understand what it means, you have to ask yourself a question: “What is creative writing?” The answer to this question will depend on your definition of the term. But before you can define it, you need to understand it.
What Is Creative Writing, According To Merriam-Webster?
If you look up the term “creative writing” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, you might find hundreds of definitions, ranging from “poetry that is innovative or experimental” to “the use of literary devices and tricks of language to produce something that is original and striking.” And while some of these definitions could be applied to written works of fiction, creative writing can also be used to describe the way in which nonfiction writers structure their work.
However, if you’re looking for a short, easy-to-understand definition that will help you get a clear idea of the term, you can put your trust in the online dictionary developed by the American Council on Education (ACE). ACE’s dictionary defines creative writing as “the craft of writing that incorporates elements of fiction, nonfiction, and/or poetry.” While this is a rather broad definition, and one that could be applied to a variety of genres, it does give you a good idea of what the term means. When used in reference to writing, creative writing can be broken down into subgenres such as:
Narrative Creative Writing
If you’ve ever read a novel or screenplay, you might have noticed that there are often several narratives within the same work. In order to produce a complete and polished story, screenwriters and novelists often have to weave together various plots, subplots, and characters into a single plot line. This is a form of creative writing that is often referred to as “narrative creative writing.” While it can be used to tell a variety of stories, narrative creative writing is often associated with fiction, and it could be considered a form of creative writing specifically tailored for written works of fiction. Just like the phrase “romantic comedy,” narrative creative writing is often used to describe comedic works, though it could also be used to describe stories in other genres, like thrillers or fantasy fiction.
Dramatic Creative Writing
If you’ve ever seen a play or movie, you might have noticed that dramatic creative writing is quite similar to narrative creative writing. Instead of focusing on the day-to-day adventures of a character, the playwrights and screenwriters of dramatic works usually focus on developing the dramatic tension and conflict between various characters, as well as the complications that arise from these factors. While characters can and often do overlap in dramatic works, such as Shakespeare’s plays, the main characters usually serve as the focal point of the story.
Poetic Creative Writing
If you’ve ever read a poem, short story, or work of creative nonfiction, you might have noticed that these pieces often incorporate various forms of poetic language and meter. Like drama and narrative creative writing, poetic writing is usually associated with fiction, and it could be considered a form of creative writing specifically tailored for written works of fiction. However, the line between poetry and fiction can be blurry, especially in today’s world, as many poets have experimented with and incorporated various elements of fiction into their work. Some compare writing poetry to writing jazz; the rules are more fluid today than they have ever been!
Fiction Creative Writing
If you’ve ever read a novel or watched a film, you might have noticed that the vast majority of these stories are classified as fiction creative writing. Just like narrative creative writing, fiction is often associated with stories and novels, though it can be applied to a variety of media, including short stories, radio plays, and movie scripts. Like poetry, fiction creative writing is usually associated with written works of fiction, though it can be applied to other forms, like oral storytelling and dramatic performances.
Nonfiction Creative Writing
Nonfiction creative writing can take many forms, from magazine articles to website content to email newsletters. If you’ve ever watched an episode of nonfiction TV series like The History Channel’s Decoded or How to Build a Better Boat, you might have noticed that the bulk of these stories are classified as nonfiction. While many nonfiction stories are based on fact, they are usually heavily researched and detailed, so they can come off more like a work of creative nonfiction. Just like The New Yorker and The Paris Review, many magazines that feature nonfiction creative writing, like The New Yorker, have an “art” section that features work from emerging and established nonfiction writers. While nonfiction can appear in magazines, it is often published alongside writing from other genres, like drama or romance, which often leads to it being considered a hybrid form of creative writing.
What Is This Thing Called Creative Writing?
Depending on who you ask, the answer to this question will vary. But, for the sake of simplicity, we can define it as “a form of creative writing that includes elements of fiction, nonfiction, and/or poetry.” If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for information on creative writing, this is the best definition you can hope for, though, again, it will vary from person to person. One of the best things about this definition is that it applies to a variety of writing genres; it is not limited to one particular kind of writing or writing community. If you’re looking for a way to define creative writing, this is the best place to start—you might find that creative writing is the thing that helps you find your voice and gives you the confidence to show the world your unique side— whether that’s via a short story, a poem, or a novel.