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Engaging Creative Writers Achieve “Realistic” Results

Since you can’t please everyone…

That was the title of The Genuine Writer’s post on August 25: the start of a series on what you can do to make your writing more engaging.

Not how to make it perfect. Not how to make it loved and lauded by all. But how to make it more engaging to as many readers as possible.

That’s really all any writer – creative or otherwise – can strive for.

While there are many different ways you can do this, I narrowed down the list last month to just three:

  1. Varying your sentence structure appropriately to create different reader reactions in the same way you choose your words

  2. Embracing creativity without obsessing over originality

  3. Working within reality enough that readers can relate to what you’re writing about.

If you didn’t get to read #1, click here. And if you didn’t get to read #2, click here.

Otherwise, let's unpack the perhaps unusual-sounding #3. It’s a pretty powerful tip though, let me tell you.

Embracing reality in creative writing doesn’t mean never writing sci-fi or fantasy. Go ahead and throw some magic or unproven scientific theories around if that's your thing.

In fact, have fun with it! (Just as long as you can make it make sense and fit with the story, that is.)

World-building, regardless of the genre, can be an inspiring experience. The act of establishing the environment your characters exist in is invigorating: an act of creation that’s downright heady at times.

I’m getting a creative-writing rush just thinking about it, so I’m not trying to tamp down on that kind of joy one bit. Just don’t let yourself get so high on it that you forget your world should probably still make some sense.

Writers can interpret this in many ways, as well they should. But first and foremost, this means knowing what you’re working with.

For instance, if you’re writing historical fiction, first understand (as much as you reasonably can) what was really going on at the time. What was the political and philosophical and societal influences that shaped how it was the way it was?

Or – on the other end of the scale – if you’re writing something far less factual, understand what your made-up world’s limitations are. It needs to have some. Otherwise, it’s going to confuse your readers, who are used to there being yeses and nos, shoulds and should nots, possibles and impossibles.

(Plus, a world with no limitations makes for a fairly uncompelling plot.)

Then, once you’ve established those boundaries, be very careful about pushing them. Again, your readers will be expecting things to make sense, and you probably don’t want to disappoint them in that.

Regardless of genre, the characters you put into your creative writing have to make sense.

That applies to their behavior, what they say, and how they say it. Which means you need to know something about human nature before you get too serious about your project.

For example, every sentient creature is motivated by something: love, hatred, hurt, hunger, fear, joy, adventure, the desire to belong, a sense of duty… Actually, more than likely, they’re going to be motivated by more than one “something.”

That’s because sentient beings are complex critters. And the more sentient we are, the more complex we become.

So unless you’re working with a character such as Tolkien’s orcs or Hitchock’s birds, really consider what’s motivating it before it takes a single step or speaks a single word.

Otherwise, they can come across as ungrounded in reality: unintentional caricatures that don’t do your creative writing talents justice.

Along those same lines, understand the concept of prejudices. As in yours.

Don’t automatically assume you know everything about another group of people, whether it’s racial, cultural, regional, national, or whatnot.

Study whatever classification you're working with... first and foremost for your own sake, and not just because you might learn something along the way. Mainly so you don’t come across as utterly ignorant to your readers – who might otherwise never want to read you again.

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