Creative Checklist

maya angelou creativity

Consider the following and ensure that you have thought about each and taken these elements into account

CONCEPT LEVEL:

  • Time and place: when is this action occurring; between whom?
  • Setting: a sense of place for backdrop purposes; for symbolic purposes; for atmosphere and dramatic purposes
  • Themes: which of these ideas are you exploring: class; power; ownership; spirituality; secrecy; wealth; family; identity; self-worth; grief; conflict; anger; guilt; bitterness etc….(it’s a long list – hone in on one or two to really explore in detail)
  • Premise: exactly why and in what circumstances is the interaction occurring?  How believable is it given all that occurs in the text?
  • Characters: how are your characters portrayed – their relationships with others/the land, their views and values; their identity; their inner conflicts; are they haunted by memories?; do they wonder about the future?; what do they hope for?; what do they fear?
  • Whose “lived experience” are you hoping to shine a light on?
  • Keep it within the realm of possibility – you should be complementing Grenville’s text, not contradicting it.

 

PARAGRAPH LEVEL:

  • SHOW, DON’T TELL.  You will need to think about what you want to hint at and how you can show the reader enough for them to infer what you are talking about.
  • Opening needs to be strong and engaging and can open ‘in media res’ – in the middle of the action – or can begin with description of setting or people which sets a mood or atmosphere
  • Consider how you build tension by hinting at discord, increasing the intensity subtly and ensuring that your reader is drawn into the conflict (could even be a person’s inner conflict)
  • Consider how you could use PATHOS to create a sense of pity and sympathy for a character and their position in the story
  • Exercise restraint  – you don’t need to write about a punch-on.  The threatened action need not even occur.  Your writing will be more powerful for the tension rather than the action your try to write.

 

SENTENCE LEVEL

  • KILL YOUR DARLINGS.  Don’t use 12 words where one will do.
  • Mix up your sentence structures to control the pace and mood of your writing.
  • Sentence fragments.  Use them.
  • Try for immediacy – don’t lapse into the passive voice.  Keep things active (attributing actions to specific people)
  • Dialogue needs to capture accents, class, education, culture.  It should reflect the cadence of speech (often not fully formed sentences and including trailing off….. Or interrup–I mean, interjections)
  • Punctuate your sentences appropriately – particularly dialogue.
  • Intersperse dialogue with description.  A classic mistake is to open with some scene setting and never ever describe (show) anything again.  That would be the equivalent of switching off the visual feed while watching a movie and only allowing your audience to hear the sound.  Alarming, to say the least.
  • Vocabulary: do your research.  Use the terminology appropriate to the time and place and characters.
  • Be specific with the details – give your writing authenticity.
  • Appeal to the senses.  Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures – these are all things that evoke a response from your reader.
  • Use the symbols or motifs Grenville has provided you with or introduce new ones: roof tile; fire; telescope; book; boat; river; cliffs; oysters; singing; clothing

 

USE YOUR EAR FOR POETRY (AND PROSE!)

  • Read your work aloud.  No, really.  Fix any errors that may have crept into your expression (subject/verb agreement; tense control)
  • Listen out for any parts that sound overly wordy or recount-like.  Kill your darlings.
  • Read your work to a critical friend.  Get some feedback.  Listen to their questions and examine their responses.

 

IF IN DOUBT

Ask WWKGD? (what would Kate Grenville do?)

The answer, my friend, is not blowin’ in the wind, nor is it secret.  It’s right there in The Secret River.

And remember: drafting is a process.

cormier writing quote

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