Creative writing

English 220I is a writing-intensive introduction to creative writing. It is a fun course, that many are often afraid of. The I at the end of 220, signifying writing intensive, can be quite intimidating to people who may not think they enjoy writing. Here are five core concepts in ENGL 220I – a quick run through of what to expect if you take this class.

1. Poetry

Since this course is an “Intro to Creative Writing”, having to do a lot of writing is expected. One of the core concepts in this course is poetry, and how to write it. Most people assume they can just write anything down on paper and claim it has a “deep meaning” and that makes it poetry. But in actuality, this course teaches recognized techniques and skills that are used by contemporary poets. For example, you would learn techniques like enjambment: the technique of manipulating the sentence structure and punctuation so the full end rhyme is not as apparent, or “loud”. Full end rhymes are often used in children’s and outdated poetry (i.e. Dr. Seuss, where every ending of every line rhymes). Although contemporary poets can have full end rhymes, they more often use enjambment. These tools enable any poem to sound sophisticated and contemporary.

2. Creative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction is where the author takes an aspect of his/her own life and makes it into a story. It is more often than not a true event, as we have to have faith that our author (and narrator) is telling the truth. If we (the reader) believe that the narrator is lying, we will be less inclined to like the nonfiction piece as its supposed to be truthful. Creative nonfiction is usually best written about events that have happened 6 months ago or more. They have to be separate enough from you (the author) so that you don’t put spins or opinions on the story. It is also important to remember that “reconstructed dialogue” is something that is allowed. If you are writing about an event that happened a long time ago, no one is going to expect you to remember word for word what someone said. The important part is capturing the same emotion and feel of the dialogue. Creative nonfiction is usually about movement. Whether that be one place physically to the next (i.e. the transition from high school to college) they are best written about events that changed you psychologically or changed your attitudes, beliefs or values. They are an analysis of that event, and an analysis of the narrators changed attitudes, beliefs, or values.

3. Fiction

Fiction is a little harder to define. Yes, the name inherently means fake. Which means that the author is writing about an event that never happened. While that is true, it is also important to remember that these fiction stories didn’t come out of thin air. But instead of being specifically about an event, the author will take his/her emotions of that event, and write them into a story that is completely different but still conveys the same emotional struggle. An example of this would be someone who is struggling with the death of a loved one. They may be feeling lost, alone, heartbroken, and afraid. The author could easily take those emotions and write them into a story about being alone on a deserted island after a horrible plane crash that killed everyone on board. While that may be a little dark, it will still convey the same emotional trouble.

4. Revision Process

The revision process is not simply proofreading. The revision process is usually important in poetry, but as an author, you can apply it to anything. It’s taking whatever you wrote and approaching it from a totally different angle. Say someone wrote a poem that was morose and melancholic. Take a random line from that poem and pretend it’s a happy line. Write the poem from that new perspective. Another strategy is to introduce an element of time. At a random part of the poem introducing a phrase such as “Suddenly”; and re-writing the poem from there. Re-writing like this allows you, as an author, to see things from a new perspective, and allows you to look at whatever message you were trying to convey with new eyes.

5. Peer Editing

Peer editing is something most people dread. Taking criticism from others can be hard, even if they are simply telling you to add another comma in your sentence. But these inputs are the most important thing for new authors. It is important to discuss the creative decisions you made as well as what your peers (or you can think of them as a trial audience) think about your work. Let them tell you when things don’t make sense or something sounds wrong. The lecturer, author, and father, Randy Pausch, once commented about harsh criticisms saying, “That’s a good thing. When you’re screwing up and nobody is saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up.”

Creative writing is a fun subject and this introductory course will give you the groundwork to either continue your education in this field or simply have the tools necessary to produce your own content. More so, that content actually be considered good writing. As E. L. Doctorow said, “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”


Randy Richard

I am an English Studies Major at CSU Chico, I hope to minor in creative writing as well.