10 answers to the real questions of creative writing

We recently gave a lesson on creative writing as part of the Bridport literary Festival. 38 people attended and the whole event went very well. People demanded quite spontaneously more information so here is a a bit more about the ideas presented.

The real questions of creative writing are:

What do I write about?

How do I make a story?

How do I make people speak?

Who should be in my story?


The solutions are actually quite easy but there is so much confusion in this area we need to iron out some fallacies first:

1.   don’t think in terms of characters think in terms of relationships.

2.   Don’t look for conflict look for contradiction

3.   Don’t look for conflict look for submission and domination

4.   Find out what CAPTURES your imagination- it may be weird, it may be unPC but that is what you must write about.

5.   Some things in a story are fixed. A story has parameters. Just because you CAN change everything doesn’t mean you should. The main shape of a story comes during the dream and then the writing phase- that should be fixed, that’s the way it is. Rather like when you have a bad day at work you use your SKILL as a story teller to interest us either in its humour or its pathos or the insights you derive from it. But the facts of the day more or less remain fixed. If you try to change everything all the time you will be lost. The secret is to accept the parameters rather like a poet accepts the need for metre or rhyme and use your skill to work round this.

6.   When an element captures your imagination go that way. That’s where the energy lies. Go where your energy is telling you to go. Experiment, get used to sensing where your energy wants to go in life and in writing.

7.   Challenge yourself- you may find new areas that capture your imagination.

8.   Do free writing without any thought or preparation first thing in the morning. Do flash fiction and fake book blurb writing. All this will help you find what captures your imagination.

9.   If you love a particular book maybe a big part of that captured your imagination. So copy it. Naturally you will change bits and it will probably seem original. Now that early Murakami novels are getting republished you can see for yourself the huge debt David Mitchell owes to that writer. He really copied him- and then made it his own, just as Oasis had the nerve to copy the Beatles and make something of their own too. AS Robert Louis Stevenson used to say to aspiring writers: “Copy, copy, copy.”

10.                 To find out what captures your imagination try writing about your best moment at the end of the day, or the beginning of the following day. Just ask yourself what the best moment of that day was and then write about it, following up all the leads it generates.