Five Simple Creative Writing Tips
Creative writing is at the foundation of any movie project. It all starts with a story. All of the best movies have at their foundation a great story. No matter what the CG or special effects budget, a movie will probably be mediocre at best if it doesn’t have a good story to back it up. This article gives you some creative writing tips on how to write a story. These principles can be applied to any type of creative writing (novels, plays, short stories), but this article is geared mainly toward writing movie and T.V. scripts. Here are five simple creative writing tips and some creative writing exercises that are very helpful:
1. Get Started
One of the best creative writing tips I can give you is to just start. Start writing your ideas down. You must have already had some ideas. I don’t think you would be reading this article if you hadn’t already said to yourself “I’ve got a great idea for a movie…” Sure will eventually need to learn the technical aspects of script writing, but don’t let that stop you from diving head first. Just open up a word document and get your ideas out of your head and onto the screen.
2. Develop The Main Elements of The Story
While just getting started is the best strategy, it helps to be somewhat organized in the process. Try and develop the main elements of the story. While it is helpful to be somewhat formulaic in your approach, everyone has a different method for how to write a story and for creative writing exercises. The most important thing is to just write, especially when the creative juices start flowing. But if you can, try and keep your thoughts organized. Every story has four things:
a) The Setting
This is the main idea. It is the answer to “What if…” For example, what if in the future, artificial intelligence had taken over the world and was using human beings as an energy source and controlling them by keeping them in a suspended virtual reality?” This would be the setting of the movie The Matrix. It is best to just come up with one sentence to describe the setting at first. This will be helpful later when you are trying to pitch your script (we will cover that in another article).
b) The Characters
Every good story has characters that the audience can relate to. When developing characters, one of the best creative writing exercises is to start with the main character and draw from real life examples. What are their strengths and weaknesses. What do they look like? What do they sound like? In the T.V. Show Seinfeld, the character Kramer was developed from a real person that the writers knew. How funny is that? It is a good idea to just look around you at the people you deal with every day. It is also a good idea to look at your own life. Are there funny little eccentricities you notice in others or yourself that you think would be fun to incorporate into your characters?
c) Something The Main Character Wants
Every story, no matter what genre, follows this formula. There is something that the main character lacks. Maybe it is a tangible thing that they lack. Maybe it is a certain aspect of self-improvement they need to obtain. Maybe it is a relationship with another character. This is where the story really grabs the audience because the audience, even though they may not know it, will relate better with characters they can relate to in this respect. Everyone is looking for something. Love, wealth, self-improvement…you name it. When the main character is going through the same thing they are going through, it tugs on the audience’s collective heart-strings and makes the story much more enjoyable.
d) Something Preventing The Main Character From Getting What They Want: Conflict
Some say that this is THE most important element in the story. Without conflict, there wouldn’t really be much of a story. There has to be something that the main character overcomes in order to get what they want. This is also a good area to develop the villan of the story.
So when the creative juices start flowing, try to steer your creativity into a somewhat organized framework so that you can better organize it when you are solidifying it into a readable and marketable idea down the road.
3. Be Prepared To Capture Your Writing Ideas
One of the hardest thing about creative writing is that when you find the time to write, that may not coincide with when your mind is in a creative state. Creativity is relatively unpredictable. That is why it is important to be able to capture your ideas when they come to you. I suggest that if you have a smart phone, you should have an app or some quick way to immediately get your thoughts recorded. Any note-taking app will do. I use the app “Catch” for my iPhone. If I am running an errand or hanging out with friends and I see someone do something or hear someone say something that I think would be great material for a movie, I write it down. Then later, when I have the time to actually write, I look at my notes and use that as fodder for that writing session. Also, lets say your are writing a general description of the plot setting or a certain scene, but then a great piece of dialogue jumps into your mind. You should capture that before you forget it. Just get it down even though it may fall outside of whatever routine you are following. This is one of the most valuable creative writing tips I have come across.
4. Don’t Get Hung Up On The Details
The details can always be figured out later. If you are writing down some great idea for a conversation between two characters and you get stuck, don’t waste an hour thinking about it. Just move to a different part of the story. The main idea, especially at the beginning stage is to get a general rough draft, somewhat organized story. The details come in when you are actually working on the script. Even then, a first draft of a script doesn’t need to be perfect. Know that your script will go through a couple re-writes. If you end up selling your script to a studio, they may even completely revamp your story and throw out a lot of the main details you worked so hard to come up with. The studio has professional writers they pay to re-write scripts over and over. What they are mainly buying from you is the story idea and the general framework for the story. So don’t fall in love with the details, especially at the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, your script has to be complete for you to be able to pitch it to a studio, but what I’m saying is don’t get hung up on details when you are starting, especially given that they details may never even be used.
5. Engage In Activities That Inspire Creativity
Every mind is different. People are inspired by different stimuli. For some it is music. For others it is movies and T.V. Shows. For others it is nature, meditation, exercise, etc… Whatever it is for you, just recognize what it is and then fill your life with that activity and be ready to capture the ideas when they come. At the end of the day, one of the best creative writing tips is that creative writing should be fun. It should not be a chore. It will only seem like a chore if you try and force yourself to write when you are not in a creative mood and also when you try to force the details. Set up your routine so that when creative writing prompts strike you, you use that time efficiently to capture your writing ideas.