Girl with chalkboard behind herIn many classrooms today, teachers focus on grammatical rules and prescribed outlines for expository text, ignoring the many benefits of creative writing. Because of this emphasis on conformity, students might be stymied when asked to produce creative writing, their ability to think outside the box stifled by years of rote performance.
Fortunately, even though creativity can be repressed, it is always there, floating just below the surface. All students have the ability to create worlds born from their own imaginations; you just have to give them the freedom to do so.

Embarking on a Creative Writing Experience

There are infinite entry points into creativity. One method I particularly enjoy allows students to explore their favorite books, seeking clues for how to compose their own narrative story.
Begin with a discussion about your favorite book, describing what makes it special. For example, with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I might discuss the clever dialogue, detailed descriptions, and thorough character development, illustrating each point with an example from the book. It is also good to bring in books that have examples of what you do not like. For example, I brought in The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld to exemplify a more simplistic form of dialogue.
Once this type of discussion has been modeled, ask your students to do the same, listing their favorite books and what makes each stand out. You will probably get a range of favorites, some newer like the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, others classics like Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. The specific book is less important than the discussion around the book. By analyzing what they like, or don't like, students gain insight into how a creative work is put together.

Have Students Analyze Writing

Once students have a list going, encourage them with more questions to consider about each book. Often students talk about their opinion of the characters in a story, or whether the plot makes sense, but they don't often think about the mechanics of the story. Some of the questions they should think about include:
  • How does the author present information about the characters? Is it done through dialogue, narration, etc.?
  • How do the characters speak? Do they use formal language, colloquial terms, or slang?
  • What happens in the story, and how does the plot develop?
  • Do you feel like you know the characters and understand their motivations?
  • Are there interesting details and descriptions that draw you into the story?
Once students have analyzed several books, they are ready to embark on writing their own stories. Have them consider the questions above as they write, but remind them that these are guidelines, not rules. By liberating students from prescribed outlines and letting them use their favorite books as writing models, students will feel their surge of creative energy restored.

Other Writing Lessons to Inspire Creativity:

One step in the creative writing process is organizing the ideas and information that will go into the text. While prescripted graphic organizers can sometimes stifle creativity, they can also be helpful for encouraging students to think through story elements.
Use a painting describing a mythological narrative to aid in the writing process. This lesson could be modified for use with any variety of painting or scene.
After reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, write a blog entry and create scripts based on a given chapter. As an extension, students could perform their skit or create a new adventure for Harry and write their own chapter about this teenage wizard.