Creative Writing 101: Everything You Need to Get Started
Creative writing: You can take classes in it, you can earn a degree in it, but the only things you really need to do it are your creative thinking and writing tools. Creative writing is the act of putting your imagination on a page. It’s artistic expression in words; it’s writing without the constraints that come with other kinds of writing like persuasive or expository.
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What is creative writing?
Creative writing is writing meant to evoke emotion in a reader by communicating a theme. In storytelling (including literature, movies, graphic novels, creative nonfiction, and many video games), the theme is the central meaning the work communicates.
Take the movie (and the novel upon which it’s based) Jaws , for instance. The story is about a shark that terrorizes a beach community and the men tasked with killing the shark. But the film’s themes include humanity’s desire to control nature, tradition vs. innovation, and how potential profit can drive people in power to make dangerous, even fatal, decisions.
A theme isn’t the only factor that defines creative writing. Here are other components usually found in creative writing:
- Connecting, or at least attempting to connect, with the reader’s emotions
- Writing from a specific point of view
- A narrative structure can be complex or simple and serves to shape how the reader interacts with the content.
- Using imaginative and/or descriptive language
Creative writing typically uses literary devices like metaphors and foreshadowing to build a narrative and express the theme, but this isn’t a requirement. Neither is dialogue, though you’ll find it used in most works of fiction. Creative writing doesn’t have to be fictional, either. Dramatized presentations of true stories, memoirs, and observational humor pieces are all types of creative writing.
What isn’t creative writing?
In contrast, research papers aren’t creative writing. Neither are analytical essays, persuasive essays , or other kinds of academic writing . Similarly, personal and professional communications aren’t considered creative writing—so your emails, social media posts, and official company statements are all firmly in the realm of non-creative writing. These kinds of writing convey messages, but they don’t express themes. Their goals are to inform and educate, and in some cases collect information from, readers. But even though they can evoke emotion in readers, that isn’t their primary goal.
But what about things like blog posts? Or personal essays? These are broad categories, and specific pieces in these categories can be considered creative writing if they meet the criteria listed above. This blog post, for example, is not a piece of creative writing as it aims to inform, but a blog post that walks its reader through a first-person narrative of an event could be deemed creative writing.
Types of creative writing
Creative writing comes in many forms. These are the most common:
Novels originated in the eighteenth century . Today, when people think of books, most think of novels.
A novel is a fictional story that’s generally told in 60,000 to 100,000 words, though they can be as short as 40,000 words or go beyond 100,000.
Stories that are too short to be novels, but can’t accurately be called short stories, are often referred to as novellas. Generally, a story between 10,000 and 40,000 words is considered a novella. You might also run into the term “ novelette ,” which is used to refer to stories that clock in between 7,500 and 19,000 words.
Short stories are fictional stories that fall generally between 5,000 and 10,000 words. Like novels, they tell complete stories and have at least one character, some sort of conflict, and at least one theme.
When a story is less than 1,000 words, it’s categorized as a work of flash fiction.
Poetry can be hard to define because as a genre, it’s so open-ended. A poem doesn’t have to be any specific length. It doesn’t have to rhyme. There are many different kinds of poems from cultures all over the world, like sonnets, haikus, sestinas, blank verse, limericks, and free verse.
The rules of poetry are generally flexible . . . unless you’re writing a specific type of poem, like a haiku , that has specific rules around the number of lines or structure. But while a poem isn’t required to conform to a specific length or formatting, or use perfect grammar , it does need to evoke its reader’s emotions, come from a specific point of view, and express a theme.
And when you set a poem to music, you’ve got a song.
Plays, TV scripts, and screenplays
Plays are meant to be performed on stage. Screenplays are meant to be made into films, and TV scripts are meant to be made into television programs. Scripts for videos produced for other platforms fit into this category as well.
Plays, TV scripts, and screenplays have a lot in common with novels and short stories. They tell stories that evoke emotion and express themes. The difference is that they’re meant to be performed rather than read and as such, they tend to rely much more on dialogue because they don’t have the luxury of lengthy descriptive passages. But scriptwriters have more than just dialogue to work with; writing a play or script also involves writing stage or scene directions.
Each type of script has its own specific formatting requirements.
Creative nonfiction covers all the kinds of creative writing that aren’t fiction. Here are some examples:
- Personal essays: A personal essay is a true story told through a narrative framework. Often, recollections of events are interspersed with insights about those events and your personal interpretations and feelings about them in this kind of essay.
- Literary journalism: Think of literary journalism as journalism enhanced by creative writing techniques. These are the kinds of stories often published in outlets like The New Yorker and Salon. Literary journalism pieces report on factual events but do so in a way that makes them feel like personal essays and short stories.
- Memoirs: Memoirs are to personal essays what novels are to short stories. In other words, a memoir is a book-length collection of personal memories, often centering around a specific story, that often works opinions, epiphanies, and emotional insights into the narrative.
- Autobiographies: An autobiography is a book you write about yourself and your life. Often, autobiographies highlight key events and may focus on one particular aspect of the author’s life, like her role as a tech innovator or his career as a professional athlete. Autobiographies are often similar in style to memoirs, but instead of being a collection of memories anchored to specific events, they tend to tell the author’s entire life story in a linear narrative.
- Humor writing: Humor writing comes in many forms, like standup comedy routines, political cartoons, and humorous essays.
- Lyric essays: In a lyric essay, the writer breaks conventional grammar and stylistic rules when writing about a concept, event, place, or feeling. In this way, lyric essays are like essay-length poems. The reason they’re considered essays, and not long poems, is that they generally provide more direct analysis of the subject matter than a poem would.
Tips for writing creatively
Give yourself time and space for creative writing.
It’s hard to write a poem during your lunch break or work on your memoir between calls. Don’t make writing more difficult for yourself by trying to squeeze it into your day. Instead, block off time to focus solely on creative writing, ideally in a distraction-free environment like your bedroom or a coffee shop.
>>Read More: How to Create Your Very Own Writing Retreat
Get to know yourself as a writer
The more you write, the more in tune you’ll become with your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. You’ll identify the kinds of characters, scenes, language, and pieces you like writing best and determine where you struggle the most. Understanding what kind of writer you are can help you decide which kinds of projects to pursue.
Once you know which kinds of writing you struggle with, do those kinds of writing. If you only focus on what you’re good at, you’ll never grow as a writer. Challenge yourself to write in a different genre or try a completely new type of writing. For example, if you’re a short story writer, give poetry or personal essays a try.
Need help getting started? Give one (or all!) of these 20 fun writing prompts a try .
Learn from other writers
There are lots of resources out there about creative writing. Read and watch them. If there’s a particular writer whose work you enjoy, seek out interviews with them and personal essays they’ve written about their creative processes.
>>Read More: How to Be a Master Storyteller—Tips from 5 Experts
Don’t limit yourself to big-name writers, either. Get involved in online forums, social media groups, and if possible, in-person groups for creative writers. By doing this, you’re positioning yourself to learn from writers from all different walks of life . . . and help other writers, too.
I wrote something. Where do I go from here?
Give yourself a pat on the back: You did it! You finished a piece of creative writing—something many attempt, but not quite as many achieve.
What comes next is up to you. You can share it with your friends and family, but you don’t have to. You can post it online or bring it to an in-person writing group for constructive critique. You can even submit it to a literary journal or an agent to potentially have it published, but if you decide to take this route, we recommend working with an editor first to make it as polished as possible.
Some writers are initially hesitant to share their work with others because they’re afraid their work will be stolen. Although this is a possibility, keep in mind that you automatically hold the copyright for any piece you write. If you’d like, you can apply for copyright protection to give yourself additional legal protection against plagiarizers, but this is by no means a requirement.
Write with originality
Grammarly can’t help you be more creative, but we can help you hone your writing so your creativity shines as brightly as possible. Once you’ve written your piece, Grammarly can catch any mistakes you made and suggest strong word choices that accurately express your message.
- Lesson Ideas
Teaching Imaginative Writing
By Becky F
Imaginative writing is fiction, actually a type of short story. Students are asked to imagine a fantastic situation and write the rest of the story. Depending on the prompt, imaginative writing can discuss anything from space travel to civil rights.
How to Teach Imaginative Writing?
Our Imaginative writing Powerpoint slides included at the end of this post will help a teacher explain how to write a story to her students, keeping in mind all the aspects of writing an imagination.
Moreover, there are a lot of resources available on the internet. My recommendation would be a complete series of videos titled “How to Write an Imaginative Narrative for Kids” by Teaching Without Frills .
Our lesson PPT is a complete lesson on its own. Additionally, you can use some warmup and plenary activities to enhance your lesson further.
Imaginative Writing Activity
One of the classroom activities for this story-writing lesson is to divide the class into groups of four or six, depending on the total number of students. Then give each group one prompt card and a story map to build the first draft by following the steps they learned through this lesson. After the draft is ready, each student can elaborate on the same structure into their own story.
You can watch the lesson preview before downloading the file.
Download ppt Slides For This Lesson
Editable Lesson Slides included
I hope this post is helpful for you to develop and deliver the imaginative writing lesson to your students. You can also check out my other Lessons in Teachers Resources
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- Creativity Techniques
26+ Creative Writing Tips for Young Writers
So you want to be a writer? And not just any writer, you want to be a creative writer. The road to being a legendary storyteller won’t be easy, but with our creative writing tips for kids, you’ll be on the right track! Creative writing isn’t just about writing stories. You could write poems, graphic novels, song lyrics and even movie scripts. But there is one thing you’ll need and that is good creative writing skills.
Here are over 26 tips to improve your creative writing skills :
Read a wide range of books
When it comes to creative writing, reading is essential. Reading allows you to explore the styles of other writers and gain inspiration to improve your own writing. But don’t just limit yourself to reading only popular books or your favourites. Read all sorts of books, everything from fairytales to scary stories. Take a look at comics, short stories, novels and poetry. Just fill your heads with the knowledge and wisdom of other writers and soon you’ll be just like them!
Write about real-life events
The hardest thing about creative writing is connecting emotionally with your audience. By focusing your writing on real-life events, you know that in some way or another your readers will be able to relate. And with creative writing you don’t need to use real names or details – There are certain things you can keep private while writing about the rare details. Using real-life events is also a good way to find inspiration for your stories.
Be as crazy and wild as you like with your imagination. Create your world, your own monsters , or even your own language! The more imaginative your story, the more exciting it will be to read. Remember that there are no rules on what makes a good idea in creative writing. So don’t be afraid to make stuff up!
Find your writing style
Thes best writers have a particular style about them. When you think of Roald Dahl , you know his books are going to have a sense of humour. While with Dr Seuss , you’re prepared to read some funny new words . Alternatively, when you look at R.L.Stine, you know that he is all about the horror. Think about your own writing style. Do you want to be a horror writer? Maybe someone who always writes in the first person? Will always focus your books on your culture or a particular character?
Stick to a routine
Routine is extremely important to writers. If you just write some stuff here and there, it’s likely that you’ll soon give up on writing altogether! A strict routine means that every day at a certain time you will make time to write about something, anything. Even if you’re bored or can’t think of anything, you’ll still pick up that pencil and write. Soon enough you’ll get into the habit of writing good stuff daily and this is definitely important for anyone who wants to be a professional creative writer!
Know your audience
Writing isn’t just about thinking about your own interests, it’s also about thinking about the interests of your audience. If you want to excite fellow classmates, know what they like. Do they like football , monsters or a particular video game? With that knowledge, you can create the most popular book for your target audience. A book that they can’t stop reading and will recommend to others!
To keep your creative writing skills up to scratch it is important to keep practising every day. Even if you have no inspiration. At times when your mind is blank, you should try to use tools like writing prompts , video prompts or other ways of coming up with ideas . You could even take a look at these daily writing exercises as an example. We even created a whole list of over 100 creative writing exercises to try out when you need some inspiration or ideas.
Work together with others
Everyone needs a little help now and then. We recommend joining a writing club or finding other classmates who are also interested in writing to improve your own creative writing skills. Together you can share ideas, tips and even write a story together! A good storytelling game to play in a group is the “ finish the story” game .
Without feedback, you’ll never be able to improve your writing. Feedback, whether good or bad is important to all writers. Good feedback gives you the motivation to carry on. While bad feedback just gives you areas to improve and adapt your writing, so you can be the best! After every piece of writing always try to get feedback from it, whether it is from friends, family, teachers or an online writing community .
Enter writing competitions
The best way to improve your creative writing is by entering all sorts of writing competitions . Whether it’s a poetry competition or short story competition, competitions let you compete against other writers and even help you get useful feedback on your writing. Most competitions even have rules to structure your writing, these rules can help you prepare for the real world of writing and getting your work published. And not only that you might even win some cool prizes!
Keep a notebook
Every writer’s best friend is their notebook. Wherever you go make sure you have a notebook handy to jot down any ideas you get on the go. Inspiration can come from anywhere , so the next time you get an idea instead of forgetting about it, write it down. You never know, this idea could become a best-selling novel in the future.
Research your ideas
So, you got a couple of ideas for short stories. The next step is to research these ideas deeper.
Researching your ideas could involve reading books similar to your ideas or going online to learn more about a particular topic. For example, if you wanted to write a book on dragons, you would want to know everything about them in history to come up with a good, relatable storyline for your book.
Create Writing Goals
How do you know if your writing is improving over time? Simple – Just create writing goals for yourself. Examples of writing goals might include, to write 100 words every day or to write 600 words by the end of next week. Whatever your goals make sure you can measure them easily. That way you’ll know if you met them or not. You might want to take a look at these bullet journal layouts for writers to help you track the progress of your writing.
Follow your passions
Writing can be tedious and many people even give up after writing a few words. The only way you can keep that fire burning is by writing about your true passions. Whatever it is you enjoy doing or love, you could just write about those things. These are the types of things you’ll enjoy researching and already know so much about, making writing a whole lot more fun!
Don’t Settle for the first draft
You finally wrote your first story. But the writing process isn’t complete yet! Now it’s time to read your story and make the all-important edits. Editing your story is more than just fixing spelling or grammar mistakes. It’s also about criticising your own work and looking for areas of improvement. For example, is the conflict strong enough? Is your opening line exciting? How can you improve your ending?
Plan before writing
Never just jump into writing your story. Always plan first! Whether this means listing down the key scenes in your story or using a storyboard template to map out these scenes. You should have an outline of your story somewhere, which you can refer to when actually writing your story. This way you won’t make basic mistakes like not having a climax in your story which builds up to your main conflict or missing crucial characters out.
It’s strange the difference it makes to read your writing out aloud compared to reading it in your head. When reading aloud you tend to notice more mistakes in your sentences or discover paragraphs which make no sense at all. You might even want to read your story aloud to your family or a group of friends to get feedback on how your story sounds.
Pace your story
Pacing is important. You don’t want to just start and then quickly jump into the main conflict because this will take all the excitement away from your conflict. And at the same time, you don’t want to give the solution away too early and this will make your conflict too easy for your characters to solve. The key is to gradually build up to your conflict by describing your characters and the many events that lead up to the main conflict. Then you might want to make the conflict more difficult for your characters by including more than one issue in your story to solve.
Think about themes
Every story has a theme or moral. Some stories are about friendship, others are about the dangers of trusting strangers. And a story can even have more than one theme. The point of a theme is to give something valuable to your readers once they have finished reading your book. In other words, to give them a life lesson, they’ll never forget!
Use dialogue carefully
Dialogue is a tricky thing to get right. Your whole story should not be made up of dialogue unless you’re writing a script. Alternatively, it can be strange to include no dialogue at all in your story. The purpose of dialogue should be to move your story forward. It should also help your readers learn more about a particular character’s personality and their relationship with other characters in your book.
One thing to avoid with dialogue is… small talk! There’s no point in writing dialogue, such as “How’s the weather?”, if your story has nothing to do with the weather. This is because it doesn’t move your story along. For more information check out this guide on how to write dialogue in a story .
Write now, edit later
Writing is a magical process. Don’t lose that magic by focusing on editing your sentences while you’re still writing your story up. Not only could this make your story sound fragmented, but you might also forget some key ideas to include in your story or take away the imagination from your writing. When it comes to creative writing, just write and come back to editing your story later.
Ask yourself questions
Always question your writing. Once done, think about any holes in your story. Is there something the reader won’t understand or needs further describing? What if your character finds another solution to solving the conflict? How about adding a new character or removing a character from your story? There are so many questions to ask and keep asking them until you feel confident about your final piece.
Create a dedicated writing space
Some kids like writing on their beds, others at the kitchen table. While this is good for beginners, going pro with your writing might require having a dedicated writing space. Some of the basics you’ll need is a desk and comfy chair, along with writing materials like pens, pencils and notebooks. But to really create an inspiring place, you could also stick some beautiful pictures, some inspiring quotes from writers and anything else that will keep you motivated and prepared.
Beware of flowery words
Vocabulary is good. It’s always exciting when you learn a new word that you have never heard before. But don’t go around plotting in complicated words into your story, unless it’s necessary to show a character’s personality. Most long words are not natural sounding, meaning your audience will have a hard time relating to your story if it’s full of complicated words from the dictionary like Xenophobia or Xylograph .
Create believable characters
Nobody’s perfect. And why should your story characters be any different? To create believable characters, you’ll need to give them some common flaws as well as some really cool strengths. Your character’s flaws can be used as a setback to why they can’t achieve their goals, while their strengths are the things that will help win over adversity. Just think about your own strengths and weaknesses and use them as inspirations for your storybook characters. You can use the Imagine Forest character creator to plan out your story characters.
Show, don’t tell
You can say that someone is nice or you can show them how that person is nice. Take the following as an example, “Katie was a nice girl.” Now compare that sentence to this, “Katie spent her weekends at the retirement home, singing to the seniors and making them laugh.”. The difference between the two sentences is huge. The first one sounds boring and you don’t really know why Katie is nice. While in the second sentence, you get the sense that Katie is nice from her actions without even using the word nice in the sentence!
Make the conflict impossible
Imagine the following scenario, you are a championship boxer who has won many medals over the year and the conflict is…Well, you got a boxing match coming up. Now that doesn’t sound so exciting! In fact, most readers won’t even care about the boxer winning the match or not!
Now imagine this scenario: You’re a poor kid from New Jersey, you barely have enough money to pay the bills. You never did any professional boxing, but you want to enter a boxing competition, so you can win and use the money to pay your bills.
The second scenario has a bigger mountain to climb. In other words, a much harder challenge to face compared to the character in the first scenario. Giving your characters an almost impossible task or conflict is essential in good story-telling.
Write powerful scenes
Scenes help build a picture in your reader’s mind without even including any actual pictures in your story. Creating powerful scenes involves more than describing the appearance of a setting, it’s also about thinking about the smell, the sounds and what your characters are feeling while they are in a particular setting. By being descriptive with your scenes, your audience can imagine themselves being right there with characters through the hard times and good times!
There’s nothing worse than an ending which leaves the reader feeling underwhelmed. You read all the way through and then it just ends in the most typical, obvious way ever! Strong endings don’t always end on a happy ending. They can end with a sad ending or a cliff-hanger. In fact, most stories actually leave the reader with more questions in their head, as they wonder what happens next. This then gives you the opportunity to create even more books to continue the story and keep your readers hooked for life (or at least for a very long time)!
Over 25 creative writing tips later and you should now be ready to master the art of creative writing! The most important tip for all you creative writers out there is to be imaginative! Without a good imagination, you’ll struggle to wow your audience with your writing skills. Do you have any more creative writing tips to share? Let us know in the comments!
Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.
Articles / Writing
Add Imaginative Writing to Your ELA Classroom
by MiddleWeb · Published 02/12/2024 · Updated 02/21/2024
Middle school teacher and instructional coach Ariel Sacks is the author of Who Gets to Write Fiction? Opening Doors to Imaginative Writing for All Students.
By Ariel Sacks
ELA programs and the standards that guide them give priority to expository and analytical writing. This is such a normal part of our culture, it probably doesn’t even seem strange. Imaginative writing is less practical and necessary for a successful life as an adult…right?
While the practicality argument may be true on some level, when it comes to young people’s development as readers, writers, thinkers, and members of diverse communities who will soon inherit the world from us, we miss out on a tremendous developmental force when we don’t seriously explore imaginative writing as part of our ELA programs.
The Art in English Language Arts
Literature is an art – it’s the art form at the center of the discipline of English Language Arts. What’s odd about the overarching emphasis on analytical writing in most ELA curricula is that we do not teach any other art form to young people in this way.
We don’t teach painting by primarily having students view, discuss, and write about paintings. We do not teach theater as simply an exercise in viewing and critiquing plays nor do we teach music or photography this way.
Both studying and creating art in a specific medium works well because the knowledge gained from the one action informs the other. When young people read about or view paintings, for example, creating in that same form is a natural response if we give them space and tools to try it.
Likewise, our productive language development is connected to our receptive language. How strange to read fiction regularly, but be expected to respond only in the form of an essay. Just like we know students need to conduct experiments to understand the scientific process, young people need opportunities to practice the art of literature to learn about the work of authors.
What We Can Do
The great news is that we can right this imbalance, and the results are amazing. With a few shifts, we can boost our students’ academic skills as well as their social emotional development and their sense of joy. We can lower students’ stress levels and help them take risks .
Here are my top five strategies for incorporating imaginative writing into the ELA classroom.
1. Tie imaginative writing to literature study.
Make it a regular way of engaging with literature, rather than a once-in-a-while activity or a stand-alone unit. (Breathe in story, breathe out story. Listen to story, speak story.) This is important, because it connects students’ reading and writing, and it gives them enough practice to develop skills in narrative fiction.
In my class, we read a lot of novels. For each novel we read, we engage in both creative and analytical writing. I create assignments that focus on a literary element that stands out in the text. For example, when reading books with a strongly developed setting, I have students try describing a setting of their choice in detail early on in the study. (Bonus: Tell students not to mention the name of the place they have chosen. Then, have them share with the class and have classmates guess what setting they chose to describe.)
2. Start with short exercises; build toward full stories later in the year.
Most students get overwhelmed by the assignment to write a fictional story right off the bat. (Most adults would too!) I often create shorter assignments based on the task of writing “a scene.” We can start by defining a scene – having students notice where a scene in a novel begins and ends. Then give students choices that play with elements of the book: add a character, change what happens in the scene when __________, rewrite a scene from a different character’s point of view, write the beginning of a sequel to this book.
I often start the year by offering a few choices. When we repeat the activity later, I have students co-create a menu of writing prompts with me. Their ideas can add a lot to the fun. The assignment allows students to make decisions with great impact, but without the pressure of creating a whole world with all the characters and the complete plot.
3. Teach just enough .
We don’t have to be giving a formal lesson to be teaching something. I try to teach as little as possible during imaginative writing – just enough to get students going, and then being generous with in-class writing time. The writing assignments teach a lot through experience, and I don’t want to overburden students with too many requirements.
That said, there are some very basic skills students will need in order to write fiction. Ideally, we just focus on one lesson per project. That’s why repetition of the activity is so important. They learn one new skill at a time, but practice the previous skills in each new assignment. Here are the three most urgent lessons I teach.
► Mini-lesson One: How Narrative Sounds . This is essentially, how to begin . Without this, some students will struggle to get started at all, while other students quickly jump into something that sounds like this: “Hello my name is _________ and I have…” and then they tell their idea in what sounds more like summary than story. In order to get started with narrative fiction, my classes simply look at how the author begins the book and the chapters within it. Students try borrowing an opening sentence, but adjust it for the purpose of their scene. I can model this or ask them to try first and then share out examples from previous student work.
► Mini-lesson Two : Paragraphing in Fiction . It’s telling that so many students draft stories with no paragraphing at all, as one endless block of text. Some students absorb the fiction form from the experience being readers, but most students need to be taught how to break up text into paragraphs. It turns out, this can be a very expressive aspect of the writing.
Have students look at an anonymous “block of text” story and then compare it to a page of nearly any contemporary novel written in prose. Then have students work together to investigate a familiar text to try to figure out when and why authors make a paragraph break. They will be surprised to note that in fiction there are often very short paragraphs, even just one sentence long! Have them practice on a sample text, and then apply to their own work.
► Mini-lesson Three: Formatting Dialogue . Paragraphing leads naturally into this lesson, so sometimes we go over it lightly with paragraphing and then in more detail in the next assignment. Again, I have students observe a novel they’ve been reading, working together to try to deduce the rules. Then we share, clarify, and try it out together before students begin working on it in their own pieces.
This skill tends to need the most practice. For some students, all the pieces come together easily. For others, the starting place needs to simply be quotation marks and naming the speaker. Once they get it, they will be excited about how their writing now looks “like a real book.”
4. Honor the social emotional development students engage in when they tell stories .
Writing fiction is empowering for students. They get to make decisions of consequence – to be the authority about the world they are writing. They explore issues and feelings, and they can be vulnerable, without disclosing what parts of their writing might be based on personal experience and what is fantasy.
Keep in mind that growth is usually happening on multiple levels as students are writing imaginatively. For some students, identity growth will more important than academic growth in a given assignment. At the same time, the personal growth will strengthen the student’s connection with their writing and increase their academic confidence.
When we sense the writing is personal for students, our role is to be a supportive witness, but to give students space; let them lead the process. (On occasion, we may feel concerned for a student’s safety based on something they include in their stories. We can’t assume the writing is personal, but we also can’t assume it’s not. Make sure to follow your school or district’s policy in such a case.)
5. Create space for sharing and reflecting .
Through sharing their imaginative stories, students can learn from each other in two key ways. If we create a safe, inclusive space for sharing, students experience the same benefits that story generally has: it expands students’ worldviews and builds empathy across differences. When they share fiction as a class, they can understand one another in new ways.
Second, they can better understand how authors’ craft works. Suddenly, we have a group of very familiar, very three-dimensional examples of authors who have made interesting choices. I have students listen to each other and take notes: “What did the writer choose to do in this piece?” and “Which literary elements stand out to you here?” We discuss briefly, applying literary vocabulary to the choices and effects we notice in the student’s writing.
The purpose here is describing and appreciating the work, not so much offering constructive criticism. Later, students reflect in writing on their own choices: what went well, what was challenging and why, and what they want to work on next time. This helps them name their choices and successes, and assess their own progress on the technical skills. When students know there will be another chance, another time, they can assess themselves with less stress and anticipate their future growth.
One additional note about our literature choices: if we want our diverse students (and all classrooms are diverse) to engage in imaginative writing, it’s important to present a range of fiction authors and diverse mentor texts throughout the year. This sends a message that students’ identities are welcome and highly valued in the story world, and that will inspire confidence as they create content for imaginative stories of their own.
Ariel is the author of Whole Novels For the Whole Class: A Student Centered Approach (Jossey-Bass, 2014). More details on the strategies in this article can be found in her new book Who Gets to Write Fiction? Opening Doors to Imaginative Writing for All Students (WW Norton, 2024).
Tags: Ariel Sacks creative writing E/LA fiction writing imaginative writing literature study writing writing YA fiction YA fiction
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6 YouTube Writing Activities for Students and Teachers
No doubt about it, YouTube has some amazing cat videos, but we have some creative English activities for students on Youtube your students will love more.
But, if we can tread the line of its algorithm-generated sidebar suggestions and avoid falling into a black hole of mindless entertainment, we can uncover some powerful tools to help get our students writing.
As a resource to enhance learning in the classroom, few free tools can match the sheer volume and diversity of the content that the world’s largest video-sharing platform offers.
Not only is YouTube the world’s most popular video-sharing platform, but it’s the 2nd most popular search engine overall, with over 3 billion searches performed per month.
And most importantly, our students love YouTube. Heck, it’s even more popular than Facebook.
So, if you’re struggling to ignite your students’ enthusiasm for yet another writing task , why not check out our 6 Writing Activities Involving YouTube list below.
Things to Consider When Using YouTube in the Classroom
But, before you or your students begin to use YouTube in the classroom, be sure you’ve thought through some of the potential safety issues that arise when using the platform with young people.
The relative importance of these safety issues will depend largely on the age of the students you’re working with. But, be sure to take all the necessary precautions and acquire all the required permissions before getting started.
Some safety issues to consider when using YouTube in the classroom include:
- Inappropriate content within videos
- Inappropriate content suggested by the algorithm
- Offensive Material in the comments section
- Privacy settings for videos posted by students.
With some thought and a little careful screening thought, YouTube can prove itself an invaluable and safe resource for use in classroom writing activities.
1. Learn to write and film a Script
Back in the day, the best a student could hope for was to see a script they had labored over being performed by a ragtag group of peers at the top of the class before the bell rang.
Often, a hurried, poorly rehearsed, and unsatisfactory affair. These days, the tech has taken us a long way from that!
If you’d told ’80s school children that one day every student would be able to record and broadcast their own movies to the world – and all from a magic box in their pocket – minds would’ve been blown!
Now, most of our students have access to a video camera of some description, whether on their cellphones, tablets, or laptops and can produce and broadcast from the palm of their hand.
Any scripts that a student writes can quickly be turned into a video and uploaded, edited, and broadcast on YouTube for the world to see – all in a matter of hours.
Of course, it may not be appropriate for the settings of these home-produced movies to be ‘Public’, but the chance to see their work on the screen can still be a powerful motivating tool for students. Even if the video will be listed as ‘Private’.
While the obvious text type to focus on with YouTube in mind might be a movie script or similar, there is plenty of scope for writing a script based on a wide variety of text types too.
For example, if you’ve been working on persuasive writing in class, the students could script and produce an advertisement that employs the persuasive techniques they’ve been working on.
The YouTube Studio even allows the students to edit their videos inside the app with the YoutTube Video Editor, so there’s no need to have a subscription to any expense editing software either.
When the students have finished writing, producing, and editing, why not schedule a time and date for the screening of all the video tasks at the end?
Don’t forget the popcorn!
2. Create a Video Essay
A recent study by the Pew Research Center revealed that 85% of young people use YouTube regularly. That’s more than even social media giants such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
It would be a mistake for us as teachers to dismiss YouTube as merely the world’s single largest repository for the meme-worthy cat videos and the like. For many of our young people, it’s their single biggest source of news and entertainment.
So important is YouTube as a medium that it has even birthed new and interesting genres never before seen, such as the video essay.
The video essay is a long-form exploration of hot topics within the culture. They’re unrestricted in many of the ways more traditional, TV-style documentaries are. They’re low budget, able to appeal to smaller, more niche audiences, and they aren’t limited in length by the demands of commercial breaks and scheduling considerations, for example.
The technological skills required to produce a basic video essay are minimal. While they often use images, clips, and other media to make their case. Most of the technology is intuitive and easy to use by design.
To get a sense of what a good video essay looks like, students could check out some great YouTube channels such as:
- Nerdwriter – explores the world of interesting ideas
- Vox – examines cultural and political issues
- Every Frame a Painting – provides in-depth film analysis.
There are a ton of sites catering to a wide range of interests. They also serve as useful tools for inspiring debate and discussion in the classroom.
The process of scripting a video essay has some similarities to that of writing a regular essay. Here’s a brief outline of the process:
The student needs first to identify the central argument they want to communicate and they’ll also need to identify the audience they want to communicate to.
They should write this down in a few clearly expressed sentences.
Then, the student will need to organize their ideas through a storyboard. The storyboard should provide a detailed outline of what the video essay will look like. This will be a great help to help the student visualize the final product.
Once the essay has been comprehensively outlined, it’ll be time to collect together the various media needed to help to make the argument.
These resources can be gathered from third party sources or produced by the student. They may take the form of still images, video clips, slides, interview audio, documents, and screenshots to name but half a dozen.
These media can then be edited together and music added as necessary. Students can use the YouTube Editor or a third-party video editor as required.
Writing/rewriting a final version of the script will be necessary. It will need to weave the various media together coherently before adding the voice-over.
Students should also be careful to reference and credit all sources appropriately in their final work version.
3. Use Video Writing Prompts with your students
Sometimes you just need a writing activity you can pull out of the hat in an instant. Something that will get the students writing quickly with the minimum of fuss.
Traditionally, these are the times we would have scrawled a writing prompt across the board in chalk and told the students to get on with it. Effective in its way perhaps, but not very inspiring.
With video writing prompts, you can have the convenience of a quick-start writing activity but with a bit more of a spark to get things going and little to no prep required.
Video writing prompts lay a little more groundwork for the students. The scene is set in a clever and interesting way with the help of dramatic music, imaginative visuals, and a theatrical voice-over.
There are several channels dedicated to providing quality writing prompts for students. One of my favorites is Video Writing Prompts by John Spencer .
4. Teach Poetry
We teach our students that the origins of poetry lie in oral tradition. We emphasize the musicality of poetry when we teach literary devices such as alliteration and assonance.
However, too often poetry remains primarily 2-dimensional words printed on the page of a textbook.
Fortunately, now it needn’t be so. Using videos from YouTube we can help our students see and, more importantly, hear the words living and breathing in the mouths of people – often the poets themselves.
When your students are writing about a poem, as well as reading it together in class, they should get a chance to hear it read. You can find readings of many classic and modern poetry on YouTube – sometimes read by the poet themselves or a very talented actor.
This gives students a strong sense of the musicality of the poem they are writing about. Things like intonation, tone, and stress are much more apparent in spoken versions of poetry than when reduced to lifeless words on a page to be read silently.
A quick search of a poem’s title will reveal if a reading is available on the platform. Several public playlists have compiled poets and poetry together. One of the best playlists I have found is Poets Reading Poetry .
If your students have been working hard on their poems, you might want to host a class poetry slam. Students can get a good feeling for reading poetry out loud by checking out the content on the appropriately named Poetry Out Loud channel.
5. Go On a Virtual Field Trip with your students
It’s great to get out and about with your class. Going on a field trip together can not only provide some valuable time to bond as a group, but it can also provide useful experiences for students to draw on when completing writing tasks, especially recounts.
Often, however, our field trips and the time scheduled to study recounts (for example) don’t coincide. Virtual field trips are a useful tool in just such circumstances.
Virtual field trips on YouTube consist of a filmed guided tour of anything from an animal sanctuary to a world capital such as Paris.
You can also find animated historical tours like ancient Rome, for example, as well as public and private facilities such as libraries, art galleries, and museums.
Virtual Field Trips playlist offers a diverse playlist of virtual field trips and is an excellent place to get started.
To write factual recounts on historical events, students could also use old newsreel footage as a useful source for their research.
A fantastic resource for this kind of footage is the British Pathé channel.
Here you’ll find everything from footage of the Titanic setting off from Belfast to the American Civil Rights marches of the 1960s.
6. Teach Narrative Writing Through Video
YouTube is chock-full of short video stories, both live-action and animated.
There are original short movies and reworkings of classic tales, such as Aesop’s fables and the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.
These can be a valuable resource to draw upon when teaching the elements of a narrative arc.
When explaining elements such as characters, setting, rising action, problem, climax, falling action, and resolution, it can be easier when the class as a whole is familiar with the very same story.
Watching a video version of the same story together ensures everyone has a fresh and identical version of the story in mind.
It ensures everyone moves through the story at the same pace, allows you to pause the tale for discussion at significant moments, and enables you to rewatch specific parts together as necessary.
One great playlist for animated versions of Aesop’s fables is Aesop’s Fables – Bedtime Stories which contains 46 different stories.
Another excellent channel with animated versions of all kinds of traditional stories is English Fairy Tales .
Videos like those found on YouTube are a great tool for increasing student engagement in the classroom.
They give you as an educator another string to your bow when students grow weary of reading from a textbook or watching yet another slide presentation.
YouTube – it’s more than just cute cats and babies!
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InsideOut at Home
Virtual guided learning library, insideout at home was created to help ensure youth, families and educators have access to high-quality, virtual creative writing lessons that engage, inspire, and frame this changing world..
The lessons below are crafted to help students grow creatively and academically, with great attention paid to the Michigan Department of Education standards. These culturally diverse lesson plans address the social and emotional needs of youth, helping them to express their fears, frustrations, and hopes.
Youth can follow most lessons independently or with the help of an adult. We also have an InsideOut At Home Story Time playlist on Youtube for our youngest students to follow along with!
For Elementary Students
“The Hand,” On Stretching Out the Sentence
Senior Writer Peter Markus shows how nouns, verbs, and details all contribute to building a powerful sentence and poem.
Sounds of Emotions
Award-winning singer/songwriter Audra Kubat invites students to think through how emotions are felt in the body and then use their emotions to write lyrics in a collaborative song.
My Tree Is…Imaginative Writing
Using imaginative writing, students will be able to explore sensory detail and descriptive language with Writer-in-Residence Kyle Hunt, including a reading of “When Grandma Gives You A Lemon Tree.” Download and print the lesson here .
For Middle School Students
Turn The Speakers Up: Decoding Figurative Language in Lyrical Poems
School Programs Manager Shawntai Brown shows students how to break down symbolism and metaphor in songs.
You Belong Nowhere But To Yourself: Safe Spaces
Using the theme of home, Lead Teaching Artist Fellow Jassmine Parks shows students how to make effective choices in their own writing based on a series of prewriting exercises and close reading of “Group Home Before Miss. Edna’s House” by Jacqueline Woodson. Download and print the lesson here .
Sometimes I Feel: Similes & Metaphors
In this lesson, students will be able to express how they feel using similes and metaphors with Senior Writer Peter Markus. Download and print the lesson here .
For High School Students
“To Fade or Not to Fade”: Using Visual Thinking Strategies
Lead Teaching Artist Fellow Jassmine Parks guides students through how visual art “speaks” through Visual Thinking Strategies and through a close reading of a poem that allows students to question, analyze, connect, and then write a poem of their own.
Black Excellence Sounds Like: Figurative Language
With Lead Teaching Artist Fellow Jassmine Parks, students will explore strategies employed by the black power movement and utilize similes, metaphors, and imagery to construct a poem. Download and print the lesson here .
Ramadan Traditions & Personification
Focusing on the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, Writer-in-Residence Hannah Webster helps students to identify personification in a poem and write a poem that includes their own personifications. Download and print the lesson in English here and Arabic here .
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Imaginative Writing: Exploring Different Types and Benefits
By Happy Sharer
Imaginative writing is an art form that allows you to explore and express your thoughts, ideas, and feelings through the written word. It’s a form of creative expression that allows you to bring your stories to life with vivid imagery and powerful language. Imaginative writing is often used to explore themes and emotions, such as love, loss, joy, and sorrow.
At its core, imaginative writing is about using the power of words to tell stories. It’s a way to explore different perspectives, create vivid settings, and develop compelling characters. In this way, it can be seen as a form of escapism, allowing you to explore different worlds and experiences without ever leaving your own.
Exploring Different Types of Imaginative Writing
Imaginative writing comes in many forms, including fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Each type of imaginative writing has its own unique characteristics and style.
Fiction is one of the most popular forms of imaginative writing. It is a story or narrative that is not necessarily based on real events. Fiction can take many forms, from novels and short stories to plays and screenplays. Regardless of the format, fiction allows you to explore a wide range of topics and emotions. It gives you the freedom to create any kind of world you want, populated with characters of your own design.
Poetry is another form of imaginative writing. It is a form of literature that uses rhythm and rhyme to convey emotion and evoke feeling. Poetry is often seen as a form of creative expression, allowing writers to explore their innermost thoughts and feelings. It can also be used to explore larger topics, such as politics, religion, love, and loss.
Non-fiction is a type of imaginative writing that is based on real events and facts. Non-fiction can take many forms, such as biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, essays, and even journalism. This type of writing allows you to explore real-world issues and present them in an interesting and engaging way.
Tips for Crafting a Creative Piece of Imaginative Writing
Crafting a creative piece of imaginative writing can be both daunting and rewarding. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Before you start writing, spend some time brainstorming ideas. Think about topics that interest you and what kind of story you want to tell. Brainstorming is a great way to get your creative juices flowing and to come up with new and interesting ideas.
Use Interesting Characters and Settings
When creating a story, be sure to create interesting characters and settings. Characters should be well-rounded and have distinct personalities. Settings should be vivid and detailed, so readers can easily picture the world you’re creating.
Imagery is an important part of imaginative writing. Use descriptive language to evoke emotion and draw readers into the story. This can be done through the use of metaphor, simile, personification, and other literary devices.
Utilize Figurative Language
Figurative language is a great way to add depth and complexity to your writing. Using figurative language allows you to explore different ideas and concepts in an interesting and engaging way. Examples of figurative language include alliteration, hyperbole, and idioms.
Showcasing Examples of Famous Imaginative Writing Pieces
Throughout history, there have been many examples of imaginative writing that have captivated readers and moved them emotionally. Here are a few examples of classic pieces of imaginative writing:
“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Raven” is a famous poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Written in 1845, the poem tells the story of a man who is visited by a raven, which speaks to him in a mysterious language. The poem is renowned for its dark and haunting imagery, which has captivated readers for centuries.
“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The Great Gatsby” is a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Published in 1925, the novel tells the story of Jay Gatsby, a wealthy man living in New York City during the Roaring Twenties. The novel is renowned for its vivid depiction of the Jazz Age and its exploration of themes such as love, wealth, and ambition.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a novel by Harper Lee. Published in 1960, the novel follows Scout Finch, a young girl growing up in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. The novel explores themes such as racism, injustice, and courage, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest works of American literature.
An Analysis of How Imaginative Writing Enhances Imagination and Creativity
Imaginative writing is an excellent way to stimulate the mind and encourage creative thinking. Through imaginative writing, you are able to explore different perspectives, create vivid settings, and develop compelling characters. This type of writing can also help expand your knowledge and understanding of the world around you. Here are a few ways in which imaginative writing can enhance imagination and creativity:
Stimulates the Mind
Imaginative writing stimulates the mind and encourages creative thinking. By exploring different worlds and experiences, you are able to gain a better understanding of yourself and the world around you. This can help spark new ideas and open up new possibilities.
Imaginative writing can also help expand your knowledge and understanding of the world. By reading and writing imaginative stories, you are able to explore different cultures and societies, as well as gain insight into different points of view.
Encourages Creative Thinking
Imaginative writing also encourages creative thinking. Through writing, you can explore different ideas and concepts in an engaging and interesting way. This can help you come up with new and innovative solutions to problems, as well as generate new ideas.
Imaginative writing is a powerful form of creative expression that allows you to explore and express your thoughts, ideas, and feelings. It comes in many forms, including fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. In addition to being a great form of escapism, imaginative writing can also stimulate the mind, expand knowledge, and encourage creative thinking. Whether you’re writing a novel, a poem, or a screenplay, imaginative writing can be a great way to explore different worlds and experiences.
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Hi, I'm Happy Sharer and I love sharing interesting and useful knowledge with others. I have a passion for learning and enjoy explaining complex concepts in a simple way.
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