5 Rules For Creative Writing (And Life)

5 Rules For Creative Writing (And Life)

179
views

Most of who we are and how we view the world was shaped during our years in high school. In most cases, a person is able to pinpoint singular experiences, classes, and teachers that helped mold who they are today.

For me, that class was creative writing and that teacher was Mr. Carboni. Not only was I taught how to write, but I was taught how to live, how to be.

Every year, Mr. Carboni introduces the "5 Rules for Creative Writing." Of course I would silently argue that there shouldn't be any rules because writing is an inherently personal craft, but they were taught for a reason: to make you better, to make your writing stronger, to make your critiques more focused, and to make you more aware of the kinds of things that will affect your readers. And so I came to embrace the rules, utilizing them in my writing during high school and now in college, as well as editing and grading with them echoing in the back of my mind.

Not only did these rules serve to show me the basic foundations of writing, but they became a framework for how I live my life.


1. Great First Sentence

In Writing: If your work doesn't have a great first sentence, the reader isn't going to want to continue. There are exceptions to this rule, obviously. Sometimes a "great" work doesn't have a great first sentence, and sometimes really bad books lure you in with nice ones. And of course, there is debate surrounding what constitutes "great" but it's a "I know it when I see it" kind of thing. The point of this rule is to, essentially, save your work from being put down. You want the reader to feel invested from the very first word, and not like their time is being wasted.

In Life: I've always been an opinionated (and one could say "confrontational") person. My problem is that I either blurt out my opinion because my anger has bubbled up inside of me, or I take a while to actually get to my point. I'm learning the art of being direct, concise, and calm, and I believe this starts with how you open in your discussion/conversation/debate/etc. Make it known that you are confident, educated, and passionate. The "great first sentence" is meant to keep people engaged, to make them want to continue. No one is going to want to continue a conversation if you're either brash or bashful right off the bat.

2. Write with Style

In Writing: Again, this goes back to keeping your reader invested and engaged. You have to make what you write matter. And you have to say it in a way that nobody else has before. No one wants to read the same old generic "Mary Sue fell in love with a vampire" crap anymore. But if that's what you want to write, find a way to separate your story from every one that has come before it.

In Life: It's hard to be original and unique in this world, and everything we do is influenced by something, however minute. But we can still have a distinct style, a distinct way of making people feel. You could have been the push someone needed to pursue an education, you could have been the difference between life and death for a friend on the edge, you could have been the catalyst for bringing two people together, you could have done and influenced a million and three different things because of the distinct way you've chosen to live your life, and that's what living with style means.

3. Tell the Truth

In Writing: This rule doesn't mean that everything has to be realistic fiction and boring, but it does mean that it should be believable. When you place the reader in the middle of a story, in the middle of a world they don't belong in, you have to make it real and whole and abide by the logic dictated by that fictional world. Sometimes this doesn't fit the idea you had when you started out, but stories truly do take on a life of their own, and it is your duty to tell it and to tell it truthfully.

In Life: There's a difference between fact and opinion, but just because something isn't a fact doesn't mean that it isn't true. Everybody has their own "truth," their own set of beliefs that define their perspective on the world. Tell your truth, commit to your convictions, live your life. Live in your truth every single day and don't attempt to imitate a truth that isn't yours. Your truth can change and evolve, but make sure it's still yours, and keep yourself rooted in whatever you choose.

4 The Bigger the Issue, the Smaller You Write

In Writing: The example used to teach this rule is typically death. You don't want to spiral into some philosophical mania about the meaning of life and death and what our purpose is and how to leave a mark on this world. The purpose of writing is to connect with people, to make them feel something. Write about the first time you experienced death, whether it was a grandparent or a pet or a squirrel in the middle of the street that your mom ran over. The goal is to make the writing relatable, even for someone who has never experienced what you're writing about. Writing in circular, superfluous prose does nothing for your reader. Keep the writing grounded; write small.

In Life: Don't try to be an expert in everything just because you took one philosophy class. Solving the world's problems isn't as easy as you might think. Keep things in perspective. Start with yourself. Then your family and friends. Your school, your community. Keep expanding outwards but don't neglect your inner circle and especially don't neglect yourself. Root yourself in your reality and instead of talking a big game, do something within your power and then you'll be able to expand your power. You can't affect change on a large scale until you start with the small scale stuff.

5. Show Don't Tell

In Writing: This is perhaps the hardest rule to learn, and the hardest to teach. To me, showing has always been a facet of inserting the reader more wholly into the story. It's about making the world and the people and the experiences real for them, to take a piece of your soul and nestle it between the pages for the reader to find, and for the reader to in turn leave a piece of their soul next to yours, because they went on an adventure with the characters you conjured up from the depths of your brain that didn't exist until you made them real. Telling is boring; telling is when you list actions and reactions, where each sentence could be given its own line because it's not a story, it's a to-do list, a how to. We're told things all day long, how to dress, how to act, what to eat, when to show up. We want to be shown a world of magic, a world of adventure. Sell me on your writing, on the reality that's only real because you made it so. Don't tell me, "He swung his sword." Show me how the sword glints in the sunlight as he wields it in an arc above his head. Don't tell me "She loved him." Show me how her stomach was in knots but her head was finally clear when he spoke to her. Telling is a summary; showing is an experience.

In Life: This one distills into an "actions speak louder than words" lesson. Don't tell me you're kind and loving and caring, show me. Live your life as an example. It does no good to preach to me if you don't take your own words to heart and live your life by them. I don't want empty promises and half-baked proposals; I want to be shown what you and the world have to offer. And I will show the world what kind of person I am by living up to what I claim to be, instead of begging you to take my word for it. Take me on an adventure, don't just tell me that they exist.


I've written and lived by these rules for six years, since I was a tiny, quiet freshman in high school, unsure about her talent or what she stood for. Now, I know I'm not the best but I know I'm good, and I'm talking about myself both as a writer and a person. Through these rules, my writing became stronger, as did my heart. I grew into a leader, a teacher, and was no longer the shy freshman but eventually the knowledgeable senior, and now a sophomore in college bent on learning and teaching as much as I can. And when I teach my students the Five Rules, I hope they take as much away from them as I did.

Cover Image Credit: Right Nerve

Popular Right Now

37 Drake Lyrics From 'Scorpion' That Will Make Your Next Instagram Caption Go Double Platinum

Side A makes you want to be single, Side B make you want to be boo'd up.

90085
views

We all knew Scorpion was going to be the summer banger we wanted. However, Drake surprised us with two sides of an album and two sides of himself. Mixing rap and R&B; was genius on his part, so why not dedicate 37 of his lyrics to our Instagram captions?

1. "Don't tell me how knew it would be like this all along" — Emotionless

Definitely a "I'm too good" for you vibe.

2. "My mentions are jokes, but they never give me the facts" — Talk Up

This one's for my haters.

3. "I wanna thank God for workin' way harder than Satan" — Elevate

For when you're feeling blessed.

4. "I promise if I'm not dead then I'm dedicated" — March 14

In Drake's story about his son the world knows about now, we get a lyric of true love and dedication

5. "My Mount Rushmore is me with four different expressions" — Survival

6. "Pinky ring 'til I get a wedding ring" — Nonstop

7. "I gotta breathe in real deep when I catch an attitude" — 8 Out of 10

This first line of the song is about to be spread on the gram like a wildfire

8. "Heard all of the talkin', now it's quiet, now it's shush" — Mob Ties

9. "California girls sweeter than pieces of candy" — Sandra's Rose

This is gonna have every girl who has ever stayed in Cali all hot and heavy, watch it.

10. "I think you're changing your mind, starting to see it in your eyes" — Summer Games

Y'all know how these summer games go

11. "Look the new me is really still the real me" — In My Feelings

When you've got to profess that you've changed 200%

12. "Only beggin' that I do is me beggin' your pardon" — Is There More

13. "Shifted your focus, lens lookin' jaded" — Jaded

14. "Back and forth to Italy, my comment section killin' me" — Can't Take a Joke

Necessary for when you've got people hyping you up already

15. "People are only as tough as they phone allows them to be" — Peak

Y'all can't have this one, I'm stealing it

16. "Work all winter, shine all summer" — That's How You Feel

Put in the work so you can flex on 'em, summer 18

17. "Blue faces, I got blue diamonds, blue tint, yeah" — Blue Tint


18. "I stay busy workin' on me" — Elevate

19. "Ten of us, we movin' as one" — Talk Up

The perfect reason to get the largest group picture you've had on your gram

20. "October baby for irony sake, of course" — March 14

This statistically applies to 1/12 of y'all reading this, so take that as you will (we October babies are the best)

21. "She had an attitude in the summer but now she nice again" — Blue Tint

22. "I know you special girl 'cause I know too many" — In My Feelings


23. "Gotta hit the club like you hit them, hit them, hit them angles" — Nice for What

24. "She said 'Do you love me?' I tell her, 'Only partly,' I only love my ____ and my ____ I'm sorry" — God's Plan

If you haven't used this one yet, get to it

25. "But I'm blessed I just checked, hate me never met me in the flesh" — I'm Upset

26. "It's only good in my city because I said so" — 8 Out of 10

Follow this up with a location and shoutout your hometown

27. "My haters either on they way to work or they arrived" — Can't Take a Joke

28. "I always need a glass of wine by sundown" — Final Fantasy

Has Drake ever been more relatable?

29. "It's your f***in' birthday. Happy birthday" — Ratchet Happy Birthday

Let's go get kicked out of an Applebee's

30. "I move through London with the Eurostep" — Nonstop


31. "I stopped askin' myself and I started feelin' myself" — Survival

Mood all summer 18

32. "They keep tryna' get me for my soul" — I'm Upset

33. "I'm tryna see who's there on the other end of the shade" — Emotionless

34. "Only obligation is to tell it straight" — Elevate

35. "It don't matter to me what you say" — Don't Matter to Me


This line from the King of Pop (MJ) will give you chills. R.I.P.

36. "I'm the chosen one, flowers never pick themselves" — Sandra's Rose

37. "Say you'll never ever leave from beside me" — In My Feelings

Couple goals, amirite?

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi / Instagram

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

If College Majors Were Plucked Out Of A Crayola Crayon Box

College is a colorful place.

856
views

In college, individually, we are practically all the yellow crayon.

It's the brightest of the box, vibrant and the epitome of sunshine... Until it's four years later and you lack the will to go on, thanks to your caffeine-induced all-nighters, novel-long writing assignments, and booze therapy. Eventually, every yellow crayon gets a little bit of the other colors on it, leaving its original, striking shine a little dull.

However, the majors that cause the yellow to change are colors of their own. They make us feel as if there's a light at the end of this tunnel of torture.

1. Maroon: Advertising/Marketing

A determined and ambitious red, but still cool, calm, and collected. Advertisers and marketers are determined to push their campaigns, appeal to the wants and needs of their target audience, and create enjoyable content to maintain customer loyalty. In a high-pressure environment like this, it's important to keep your head up and not to panic. Even when it all hits the fan, you have to stand your ground and not freak out.

2. Indigo: Engineering

Engineers appear to be confident Ravenclaws on the outside, but they're drowning on the inside (hence the blue). Their workload requires tough math classes, science, physics, and many more. And they have to be good at all of those! If you walk around on the engineering part of campus, you'll hardly ever see a smiling face. All are expressions of stress and fear. It's a lot of work, but engineers will eventually make it out alive. I promise!

3. Green: Journalism

Journalists are always after the news and the big scoop. Green is typically associated with new beginnings and growth. Journalism is constantly expanding in some way. While many people think that it is a dying field, it is actually morphing into a purely digital medium. Don't underestimate your print and broadcast journalists, because they'll be way better off than you could imagine. They're good at adapting and conquering obstacles, true to their major.

4. Pink: Nursing

There is no better color to represent kindness and helpfulness than pink. Nurses are compassionate and seek to help anyone who steps through the door. However, while nurses have to be kind, it is not a job for the faint of heart. You will see many unpleasant things as a nurse and you have to be prepared for it. You have to know that you want to help people, no matter the circumstance. Pink is one of those colors confused with weakness, but that could not be further from the truth. Never underestimate the power of pink and never underestimate the strength of nurses.

5. Orange: Education

Orange is bright and warm, as most teachers are. They hold the knowledge to teach future generations and practically raise kids while their parents are at work. They are miracle workers that have a lot to deal with on a daily basis. They have to mediate between kids, teach them to uphold the morals taught by their parents, and even teach them better than their parents ever could. People don't give teachers enough credit and they deserve more money than they get.

6. Grey: Business

All business, a serious grey is meant for the business and economics majors. Grey isn't necessarily bland or boring. Grey has a boss-like demeanor. It's persuasive and can own a room. This is why it's perfect to describe business majors. These people learn the ins and outs of sales, buying, stocks, etc. These people are so money smart that it's insane. Also, it helps that suits come in grey.

7. Violet: Psychology and Criminology

Psychology and criminology majors can analyze every little reason you do the things you do or why you are the way you are. They are far superior at understanding the human brain and the behavior patterns. Violet fits the bill when it comes to these majors, given that they are a breed of their own. They are mysterious, much like the color purple, and can solve the mysteries of humankind.

Related Content

Facebook Comments