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Five Tips for Creative Writing

So, you’ve decided to enter the writing competition at Youth Quest, but you don’t know where to begin. Luckily, there are 5 basic steps you can take to enhance your writing. In the Creative Writing categories, you will most likely be writing a narrative, or short story. This type of writing has a few key elements that are expected to be present in the piece. Your judges will know this, and they will be looking for them. So, let’s take a look:

  1. Develop Your Characters – Your characters carry your story, so you have to make sure they are fully developed. No one likes to read stories that have boring, under-developed characters. So, you need to make sure that you know your characters. This may seem like a silly thought to non-writers, but to you aspiring authors, you know what that means. What are their back stories? What is their name, age, hobbies, ethnicity, etc.?

You probably won’t use all of this material in your story, but it is necessary for you to know, and fully understand, how your characters will progress and react to different situations in the story. You may be asking, “If I don’t need all this detail in the story, what do I need in it?” There are a few essential things that your reader – or judge in this case – should be given:

  • Appearance: the reader needs a visual understanding of your characters. Make them real to the reader.
  • Action: the reader wants to know the actions of your characters – show them what kind of person your character is.
  • Speech: you need to develop your characters through their own voice. Don’t have your characters merely announce important details. Use their voice to develop them as a person.
  • Thought: Bring your reader into the mind of your characters. Through this, you can show their inner feelings, emotions, unexpressed fears, etc.[1]

By doing these simple things, you can make a huge difference with the characterization in your story.

  1. Set up the Plot – As an author, it is your job to create the sequence in which you want your story to unfold. This is one of the basic pieces of storytelling. The plot is what happens in the story (and the order in which it happens). In any story, something has to be taking place. The story has to move from point A to point B. If you really want to be a good writer, but you never know where to begin with the plot, here are a few ideas that have been used by thousands of writers before you. It is as simple as using that formula.
  • A physical event: Point A = a murderer is loose in town. Point B = police arrest the killer.

The classic scary movie.

  • A decision: Point A = your character is expected to practice law like his/her father. Point B = your character decides to choose their own career path.

The classic family drama.

  • A change in a relationship: Point A = your two main characters’ hate each other. Point B = your two main characters now love each other.

The classic RomCom.

  • A change in a person: Point A = your character is a selfish jerk. Point B = your character has learned to be less of a selfish jerk.

The classic Mean Girls

  • A change in the reader’s understanding of a situation: Point A = your character appears to be a murderer. Point B = The reader realizes that character is actually innocent and made a false confession.[2]

The classic twist ending

  1. Create Conflict – What is conflict in writing? Exactly what it sounds like – a struggle between two opposing forces. So wait, “I am supposed to write about two people fighting?” Not exactly. Conflict in writing is different in the sense that it can be any kind of conflict between two opposing forces – not just two people. There are a few common forms of conflict in writing:
  • Man vs. Man: yeah, this is the kind between actual people. Remember though, we aren’t only talking physical conflict. It could be jealousy, power struggles, love triangles, etc.
  • Man vs. Nature: huh? Yes, this is conflict between an individual and some kind of natural force. This would be seen in stories like “To Build a Fire” by Jack London. In the short story, the main character is stuck in the Yukon (Alsaka) and fights for his survival against the harsh snow. I won’t give away the ending, but… he doesn’t survive. Nature wins.
  • Man vs. Self: this is the really deep kind of conflict where your character is struggling with some internal force. They are literally in conflict with themselves. Say your character is battling thoughts of depression, self-image, or anxiety. This is conflict that goes on in the character’s thoughts.

There are other forms of conflict in writing, but these are the basics. You most likely have heard of them in an English class at some point in your life. But, let this be a refresher. They seem so simple, but they are gold in short fiction.

  1. Build to a Climax – In every good story, there is that one moment that the whole book, movie, play, etc. was building up to. THIS. IS. THE. CLIMAX. The kiss that you were waiting for! The “good guy” beating the villain! The game winning shot! All of these are examples of climax. Stories all have that turning point. That is what your goal is as a storyteller.

If you’ve ever been in a writing class, you are probably familiar with the idea of the rising action. This is what your story is doing the whole time. Once your story begins, it starts to rise – and it keeps rising until it hits that one decisive moment, or turning point. Once you reach your climax, your story is almost over. Really… it is time to start wrapping it up. Think of your favorite RomCom (I know you all have one). After the big kiss, the movie wraps up in five minutes. That is the basic format of a story. Don’t feel like you are being predictable. You aren’t. If that’s the case, then you can be the one who tells some of the greatest writers in history that they were doing it wrong. Trust the system.

Rising Action > Climax > Resolution

  1. End it (or the Resolution) – If your whole story leads to that climatic moment, how do you end it? As a writing professor, I hear students struggle everyday with this question, “How do I write a conclusion?” Nice thing is, when you are writing fiction, you have that formula: rising action > climax > resolution. You just need to offer some resolution to your readers. Tie up loose ends. There are some great ways to do this:
  • Leave the Ending Open: let the readers decide the outcome. Think about the movie Inception (spoiler alert ahead). We never see if the spinning top falls. Was it all a dream? Was it real? WE WILL NEVER KNOW! So, we have to decide for ourselves.
  • Resolve It: as the author, you give a clear-cut outcome. Simple as that.
  • Parallel to Beginning: End your story with a similar situation or image that you began your story with. Your story opens with a young girl staring out a window. She is longing for something, but she can’t seem to figure out what it is.

** insert rising action and climax **

Your story ends. The same young girl is staring out the same window. Only this    time, she has found what she was looking for. She is looking to the future with a        hopeful heart. See what I did there? It actually offers a really creative touch to a             story, so if you are looking for something different, this may be your option.

  • Monologue or Dialogue: Your character(s) comments. Let your character or a few of your characters wrap up the story. If you can’t find the words, let your character(s) do it for you.
  • Symbolic Image: end your story with a symbol that represents something larger than it appears. Maybe your story ends with a man staring out across the ocean. Your reader may ask, “is it a literal ocean, or does the ocean stand for something else.” What did you intend? Is there something deeper there? Does the ocean symbolize freedom, God, opportunity? This is a tougher skill to master in your writing, but if you are passionate about stories, you need to start somewhere. Youth Quest is a great place to practice. Let your judges offer you their wisdom and expertise. [3]

To master writing, it takes work. These five steps are a great place to start – you aren’t going to be perfect the first time you try. That is normal.  All of the great writers in our history are great for a reason. They had a passion and desire that they chose to fine tune. It takes time to understand the art of writing. Just like any other creative outlet, this is art. God has given you a gift that you are passionate about. Take that gift and practice. Let Youth Quest be a venue for that. I truly love seeing young adults enter written pieces for competition because it reminds me how beautiful the art of writing really is.

[1] Jerz, Dennis, and Kathy Kennedy. “Jerz’s Literacy Weblog.” Jerzs Literacy Weblog,

[2] “What Is Plot – How to Write a Story from Beginning to End.” Creative Writing Courses and Ideas: An Online Resource for Writers,

[3] Jerz, Dennis, and Kathy Kennedy. “Jerz’s Literacy Weblog.” Jerzs Literacy Weblog,

Photo Credits: Discipleship Ministries

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