What Is Creative Writing?

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Sometimes it’s difficult to define the idea of creative writing. It may feel like it should be an instinctive talent if you’re destined to write, but anyone can learn what creative writing is and develop their storytelling skills.

Check out this guide to learn the basics and get inspired to start writing.

What Is Creative Writing?

This type of writing has a basic definition that launches all forms of fiction and non-fiction:

Creative writing is any original piece of writing that communicates thoughts, themes, or ideas in an imaginative form.

What does that mean? It means that you’re a creative writer if you write poetry, scribble a quick short story, or write a non-fiction narrative about your life. It’s all a different way to communicate those ideas than standard conversations or academic papers, so it’s a creative outlet.

What Are the Literary Genres?

Literary genres divide books by subject type so readers know exactly what type of book they’re picking up. You wouldn’t want to open a book and find fairy tales if you were in the mood to read a murder mystery. Genre labels help readers avoid that problem.

There are numerous literary genres you can use as inspiration for your writing. For the purpose of fiction writing, your stories could fall into genres such as:

  • Fantasy
  • Fairy tales
  • Fables
  • Drama
  • Folklore
  • Humor
  • Horror
  • Historical fiction
  • Mythology
  • Legend
  • Mystery
  • Realistic fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Poetry
  • Short stories

You don’t need to pick a genre before writing a story. Although that can help guide your plot outline experience and character creation, it’s also fine to get a story idea and identify the genre later.

Genre really only becomes crucial when you’re writing to publish something. Magazine submissions, contests, and literary agents define what they want to read by genre. If you send a science fiction story to a folklore magazine, you’ll waste your entry fee payment and time because that’s not the topic they’re looking for.

What Makes Creative Writing Good?

Everyone judges creative writing differently. Think about what you like to read. Your best friend might prefer authors who write stories very differently from your favorite authors. That doesn’t make either of you right or wrong!

Creative writing is good when it tells an engaging story.

That could be whatever you read in The New Yorker or the romantic fanfiction your read online. It also means you can tell a great story whether you’re an experienced writer or not.

When you read your own work or share it with a friend, do they feel emotionally moved? Does your story linger in their mind? Do the characters feel real?

Answering yes to any of those questions means you’re a good creative writer. Refining skills like grammar and craft come with practice and time.

Common Techniques Used in Creative Writing

These techniques help writers tell stories in vivid ways. You don’t have to use them all in a single story or include any specific techniques to write well. They’re just options you can consider to improve your craft.


Similes are comparisons that use “like” or “as” to create a clearer picture in the reader’s mind. You may read them without noticing when they appear because they fit naturally into sentences.


I love you like wolves love each other—for life.

You’re acting cool as a cucumber right now.


Metaphors also compare two things, but they don’t depend on “like” or “as.” It’s a figure of speech that describes something in a way that isn’t true in a literal sense.


He’s the black sheep of his family. [The male subject of the sentence is a human, not a sheep. But the idea of a black sheep or ostracised member of a group is a more vivid description of his standing within his family.]

You’re such a couch potato. [The human subject isn’t literally a potato. This metaphor just creates the idea of a sedentary object, which is more vivid than saying, “You’re always sitting on the couch.]


Imagery is any use of words to create a picture in the reader’s mind. It uses sensory details or flowery language (which may include similes or metaphors!) to bring a scene to life.

The opposite of using imagery is writing about something in a straightforward way. It makes creative writing different than academic writing. The following examples would never appear in an academic paper or news article because they’re too artsy.


Imagery: The sky outside my morning window was hazy with lingering moonlight. Pink and orange clouds billowed above my home, welcoming me to another day.

Non-imagery: The weather was slightly cloudy at sunrise.

Imagery: The sweet, lingering scent of sugar glazes was always the first way Aaron knew he was home. His father was always baking, always bring confectionary creations to life inside his double oven.

Non-imagery: Aaron entered his father’s home through the kitchen. His dad had recently baked dessert.


Writers often bring objects, feelings or other features to life through personification. It’s a literary device that places identities or emotions onto things that don’t experience either.

When done correctly, it makes fictional worlds more interactive and characters more relatable.


The universe smiled down on us that morning—we never encountered traffic on the way to my final exams.

We watched the moonlight dance across the river, inviting us for a midnight swim.

Tips to Start Creative Writing

I wrote more extensively about how to start creative writing at any age on a previous post, but here are a few fast tips you can start using today.

1. Find Authors You Admire

Reflect on the books you’ve loved in the last few years or throughout your life. Which authors wrote those books and what was their writing style?

Thinking about your favorite authors in those two ways helps you analyze their writing styles. You could start writing using their same preferences for narration and plot development. As long as you’re not directly copying them (unless you’re writing fanfiction), you’ll develop your skills based on writers that have techniques you’d like to learn.

If your authors list isn’t very long, use these ideas to find new books with similar subjects or genres to expand your book collection.

2. Save Every Story Idea

Sometimes you’ll write the stories that come to mind and sometimes you won’t. Not every idea will generate a great story, but they’re still worth saving.

You might reflect on your story idea list and have the skills or interest in a past idea later in your life. Sometimes the issue is also time. You may not have the free time to research or develop a story idea right now, but that could always change.

Give yourself the freedom to save every story idea. There’s no pressure to use them all, but it’s good to have a running list and the room to explore creative concepts.

3. Don’t Set Expectations

You don’t ever have to get published or make money from your stories. Many writers never do! This is absolutely a hobby that you can keep for yourself.

Avoiding setting any expectations to get published or earn an income from your creative writing prevents you from feeling too stressed to even try. You’ll have more room to write different ideas, get messy, write badly, and learn from your mistakes.

4. Write for Yourself

Whether you ever gain a readership following or not, you’re always going to write the stories that interest you. You’ll only know which ideas are interesting if you practice writing for yourself.

Write the characters that come to mind or the themes you want to tackle. You might even write about the same subjects throughout your life.

That’s absolutely fine.

Your creative writing hobby should bring you joy—so write for yourself before writing for anyone else. 

Learn About Creative Writing

Once you’ve read about what creative writing is and the craft’s foundations, you’re ready to start your first story. Don’t forget—I have so many resources to help you get started!

These free online resources cover everything from character creation to background sounds to your writing sessions. I also wrote about how to outline a story for beginners.

Need a few prompts? There are weekly writing challenges and monthly prompts on my site too. Have fun exploring and don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list so you’re always up-to-date on the latest tips.

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