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Why Is Figurative Language Important in Creative Writing?

Creative writing is all around us. From short stories to poems, novellas and nodes, novels and novellas, plays and screenplays – all of these are considered forms of creative writing. It’s evident that the form is not going out of style.

Often, in creative writing, we find ourselves writing in figurative language. That is, using language that imitates or describes human behavior, rather than using literal and direct language. For example, instead of writing “She walked towards the counter”, we might write “She strode towards the counter”, “He ambled towards the bar”, or “The man strolled towards the fireplace”. These are all examples of figurative language, and none of them is the literal translation of the original sentence. Yet, these are all completely understandable and, in fact, it’s the figurative language that makes the sentences memorable and interesting.

Why is this form of language important in creative writing? Let’s consider the five main reasons.

1. It Allows Room For Imagination

Imagination is one of the most important and valuable components of writing. Whether it’s a piece of flash fiction, a short story, a novella, or a novel, the ability to imagine what is not there is essential. Creative writing is all around us. We see it in films, plays, TV shows, and novels. Writers must be able to do the same, only they are restricted by the number of characters they can use and the number of words they are allowed to write.

To give you an idea of the kind of stories that require a lot of imagination, here are some examples:

  • The Twilight Zone
  • Black Mirror
  • Lost
  • West Wing
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Star Trek

The ability to imagine what is not there is a hallmark of good writing. If we compare these stories to their transcriptions, we will see that much of the figurative language is completely unnecessary. Take Twilight Zone for example. The story is about a man who travels back in time and, as a result, changes history. In the story, the author uses a great deal of figurative language, such as “stride”, “walked”, and “ambled”, to describe the man moving through time, as well as “carpet” and “rug”, to describe the floors he walks on. Yet, the story is completely comprehensible without any of these phrases.

2. It Helps Create Atmosphere

In literature, atmosphere is every bit as important as plot and character development. In fact, atmosphere can be the most critical element of a story or novel. For example, the writing in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is very dry and lacks atmosphere. It’s evident that this is a problem, as the book was made into a movie with the same name, but the screenplay was written by Kevin Smith and the film’s dialogue is very authentic.

The best stories and novels often have atmosphere. Good stories and novels usually have a very atmospheric quality to them. To create atmosphere, writers sometimes use figurative language. For example, in the book Flat Stanley, Stanley the dog is described as “a chubby, squirrelly fellow with stubby legs”. This is a great description for Stanley and it makes the reader want to stick their hands in a blender and create delicious drinks. Stanley is certainly no ordinary dog, and the description brings him to life.

3. It Improves Creativity

Creativity is another important ingredient of writing. Many different kinds of creativity can be found in literature, such as artistic creativity, which is the ability to create something out of nothing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is mechanical creativity, which is the ability to follow set rules and procedures to create something. Finally, there is scientific creativity, which is the ability to analyze something and understand how it works. All of these, being creative, contribute to making something unique and special.

The use of figurative language can improve creativity. Take a moment to consider how you would describe someone who is extremely creative in words, either through art, or science, or both. Now, consider someone who is not so creative, but can follow instructions and turn those same instructions into something practical. These are the types of comparisons that could lead you to see a clear difference in how you would describe the two individuals and, perhaps, how you would act towards them as well.

A great deal of creative writing is done on computers. Thanks to modern technology, anyone with a laptop can be a professional writer, with the proper guidance and inspiration. With all the fonts and fancy words that a writer can use, it’s a wonder that any creative writing is done on paper at all!

4. It Improves Proficiency

Just like creativity, proficiency is another important element of writing. To improve your proficiency, you must be constantly practicing. This means sitting down and writing, either on a computer or in a traditional manner. In terms of utilizing figurative language in your practice, this means that you can increase your proficiency by using language that is descriptive, yet non-literal. This is why writers use descriptive words and phrases, rather than just focusing on spelling and grammar.

In your practice, you can ask yourself questions about the imagery you are using. Do any of the words that you choose have a specific meaning? If you want to improve your writing, it’s important to look at the definitions of the words you choose – rather than simply relying on your memory of what they mean. This will certainly improve your writing, and, in turn, make you a better writer.

5. It Helps Build Emotional Connection

Last but not least, we have emotional connection. When you are writing, either on paper or in a digital manner, you are crafting a story or novel. As a result, you will be engaging with the audience through your writing. To create an emotional connection, you must be able to put yourself in the shoes of the characters you create. Only then can you truly understand what they are feeling and why they are feeling it. In a novella or short story, this is often done through the use of dialogue.

In a novel or long story, this can be more challenging, especially if you are not a naturally emotional person. To assist you in creating an emotional connection, many writers find it helpful to use figurative language. In A Clockwork Orange, for example, there are many instances where the author uses figurative language to show the brutality of the characters. The language is vivid and drives home the sense of violence that is being perpetrated by the droogs in the story. When you are writing, you must find the right balance between using too much or too little figurative language. The farther you push it towards the latter, the more interesting and engaging your writing will become, but, at the same time, the less accessible it will be to the general reader.

Ultimately, it is important to remember that language is how we communicate. Whether we’re talking to each other or writing, we are always using language to some extent. When you begin to see language as a tool that can be used to tell a story, rather than merely as a means of communication, you will find that it has a whole new meaning. In terms of creative writing, seeing language as a way to evoke atmosphere, create creativity, improve proficiency, and build emotional connection will make a world of difference when it comes to your writing.