Creative Writing Tips

Success Secrets of Top Authors

Welcome! These Creative Writing Tips will unlock for you the success secrets of great authors. Learn the art of persuasive writing from some of the best books of all time...

Creative Writing Tip #1: Figurative Language

Figurative Speech uses language in original, imaginative ways to create strong images. Two common figures of speech are similes and metaphors.

A Simile explicitly compares one thing to another, using the word like or as; as in:

Sharp as flint...solitary as an oyster.
(From A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens)

A Metaphor is a figure of speech that implies a comparison by speaking of one thing as if it were another, without using the word like or as:

Where I first bow'd my knee
Unto this king of smiles, this Bolingbroke...
Why, what a candy deal of courtesy
This fawning greyhound then did proffer me!

(From King Henry IV, by William Shakespeare)

Click here for more on Figures of Speech: Figurative Language Helps Readers See, Hear, Feel

Creative Writing Tip #2: Strong Action Verbs

Write with strong action verbs. Active verbs are dynamic; passive verbs are insipid.

Active Verb: Joe caught the lion.
Passive Verb: The lion was caught by Joe.

An action verb electrifies. Active verbs are vivid verbs; they evoke drama and suspense, they rivet the reader's attention:

Mr Rochester flung me behind him: the lunatic sprang and grappled his throat viciously, and laid her teeth to his cheek: they struggled.
(From Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte)

Click here for more Creative Writing Tips on How to Use Action Verbs to Get Readers' Attention

Creative Writing Tip #3: Denotations

Good word-choice is important. Readers expect words to be used according to their denotations: that is, their established dictionary definitions.

Some words may have the same general definitions. For example: famous, noted, renowned, celebrated, talked-about and notorious all mean widely-known. But each of these words carries a different denotation.

Choose words that precisely fit your meaning. A celebrated author is very different from a notorious one. Wrong choice of words weakens your writing and confuses readers.

Consult a good dictionary if you're unsure of the precise meaning of a word.

Click here for more Creative Writing Tips on Good Word Choice: Denotations and Connotations

Creative Writing Tip #4: Connotations

Words also have connotations: emotional overtones that go beyond the word's explicit definition. When choosing words, be sensitive to their connotations.

Explore the overtones in different words. Words with approximately similar meanings may have different connotations. For example, each of these words evokes an entirely different response from the reader: fat, plump, chubby, pot-bellied, paunchy, obese.

Emotional associations add layers of meaning to your writing. Sentences are especially potent when constructed with emotionally charged words, because of the rich interplay of connotations among the words:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
(From A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens)

If you're unsure of the connotation of a word, consult a good dictionary of synonyms.

Click here for more Creative Writing Tips on Connotations: Good Word Choice: Denotations and Connotations

Creative Writing Tip #5: Concrete Words

Balance general words and abstract ideas with specific and concrete words.

General words name groups of things: for example, fish, fruit. Abstract words name qualities or ideas: for example, protection, danger. Specific and concrete words name things that appeal to our senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste or smell: for example, goldfish, orange, castle.

General and abstract words paint a broad but sketchy picture. Use them to set out your main idea, then flesh them out with specific and concrete words that evoke vivid images in the minds of readers. Like this:

In the sea, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a Whale, and he ate fishes. He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel.
(From Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling)

Click here for more Creative Writing Tips on Concrete & Abstract Word Choices

Creative Writing Tip #6: Show, Don't Tell

Get readers involved in your story, make them feel with and for your characters. One way of doing this is to show characters' feelings and personalities through action and dialogue:

"The Founder of the Feast indeed!" cried Mrs Cratchit, reddening. "I wish I had him here. I'd give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he'd have a good appetite for it."
"My dear," said Bob, "the children; Christmas Day."
"It should be Christmas Day, I am sure," said she, "on which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr Scrooge. You know he is, Robert! Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow!"

(From A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens)

By letting Mrs Cratchit speak and act for herself, Charles Dickens has brought her to life. He has shown us her distinctive voice and personality, and at the same time engaged our sympathy for Bob Cratchit.

Much more effective than if the author were to tell us: "Mrs Cratchit felt indignant when Bob proposed a toast to Scrooge. She wanted to give Mr Scrooge a piece of her mind..."

Click here for more Creative Writing Tips on Dramatic Dialogue

Creative Writing Tip #7: Word Music

When we read, we hear the words with our inner ear. The way an author writes, especially the interplay of word choice, syntax and repetition, determines the way the words sound to readers: whether it's discord or melody that they hear.

Good writing has a musical rhythm to it. Listen as Charles Dickens draws us into A Tale of Two Cities with this lyrical opening:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...

And the poignant, triumphant note on which the story ends: listen as the stirring music draws to a close:

"I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I shall see no more...
"I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. I see her, an old woman, weeping for me on the anniversary of this day. I see her and her husband, their course done, lying side by side in their last earthly bed, and I know that each was not more honoured and held sacred in the other's soul, than I was in the souls of both...
"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."

(From A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens)


Click here for more Creative Writing Tips:
Creating Word Music with Onomatopoeia, Alliteration, Repetition and More
Creating Word Music with Sentence Structure Variations


All great authors have one quality in common: good style. For tips on how to acquire a good writing style, visit Creative Writing Tips: How to Improve Writing Skills

Writing a story? Visit How to Write a Book: Creative Story Writing Tips that Work! and Creative Story Writing Tips: Conflicts, Cliffhangers and Climaxes


Resources for teachers
Check out this website for more ideas and tools, especially if you teach a Creative Writing class! You'll find a wide assortment of resources ready to download.


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