Tag: creative writing

Writing Resource: Nika Harper’s Wordplay

Nika Harper does vlogs on the Geek and Sundry Youtube channel. Her vlog series is titled “Wordplay” and its topic is creative writing. You might be wondering how creative writing videos might help you become a better writer, right? Well keep reading!

Creative writing can be important in an academic setting because you’re not always going to be writing boring 5 paragraph essays or lengthy research papers. Anyone who has written a literacy narrative knows what I’m talking about, and personal statements to an extent. Essentially any situation in which one must tell a story, it’s creative writing that gets this done. Creative writing can hone skills that are essential to becoming an effective writer in any context or genre, like writing for different audiences and writing in different voices.

However, all of Nika’s videos aren’t about creative writing. This video is actually about cover letters:

This video is especially practical, yet the video is still entertaining and quirky in her own creative way.

Even if you don’t like creative writing, I highly encourage you to check out this vlog series, it’s very entertaining and informative.

Writing Resources: Giant Golden Buddha (and 364 more 5 minute writing exercises)


Giant Golden Buddha and 364 more 5 minute writing exercises is a series of writing prompts by author C.M. Mayo. Here’s how it works. There is a prompt for each day of the year. After reading the daily prompt, write on that topic for at least 5 minutes and become a better writer. Personally, I use Giant Golden Buddha as a warm-up exercise if I’m writing a long piece or am experiencing writer’s block.

Here’s an example prompt:


January 22

“Magical Furniture”

This is a little exercise in magical realism. With realistic detail, write a scene in which your character has a conversation with a piece of furniture. Assume that the person and the piece of furniture disagree about something.


Often you’ll find that these prompts are short, simple, and really fun to write about. When I wrote on this prompt, I wrote about a chair and a person arguing about the legitimacy of ergonomic furniture design. It was really entertaining to write and I feel comfortable assuming I wouldn’t have written that type of piece without being prompted.

This series is one that I really enjoy for a few reasons. First, it has helped me become a better writer. In most things practice makes perfect, and writing is no different. I’ve found that this kind of practice is really good at flexing those writing muscles. Also, as I said before, I find that these exercises are nice warm-ups for writing anything longer than a couple of pages. I use these exercises in my writing process to get the creative juices flowing before writing a piece that I’d rather not trudge through.

Grammar isn’t the Bad Guy

The Great Grammar DebateOne of the phrases I hear the most from students coming to The Writing Center is, “I’m terrible at grammar.” What’s highly interesting about this phrase is two things: 1.) Generally speaking, students say “grammar,” but actually define that term as including “grammar, spelling, and punctuation,” and 2.) In my experience, 9 out of every 10 people who have said that really aren’t bad at it at all. It seems like, for a variety of reasons, this idea of “proper grammar” has become some sort of multi-headed beast in peoples’ minds; an unconquerable set of rules, punctuation marks, spelling, etc., that they just don’t have a chance at mastering. FALSE.

Firebreathing dragon, with the word "Gramma" in the flames.
Image via www.churchstroke.com, edited by Gines

Being good at grammar isn’t something that everybody just inherently knows; it’s like a muscle that grows over time as you continually learn more about how to strengthen it. Grammar also isn’t this set of rigid rules designed to make writing difficult, but rather the resource that helps you to communicate well through your writing. In reality, it’s no different from the chemist using the right beaker to successfully conduct the experiment, or the violinist who must tune their strings to the correct pitch before a performance.

Additionally, using proper grammar doesn’t necessarily mean you’re crafting flourishing sentences of “erstwhile’s,” “thou’s,” and “fortnight’s.” In fact, using it correctly doesn’t even guarantee that it’s a good sentence. What actually makes writing interesting and enjoyable to read is largely based on the content. Grammar, then, is the vehicle that helps you deliver those important words to your audience. Think of it like this: grammar is not a set of strict rules looking for every opportunity to trip you up between subject-verb agreements, or using the proper tense. Instead, it is a set of tools that helps you get your message to the audience. For example, if you have an idea for a fantastic play or a witty short story, grammar isn’t your enemy here. It’s the resource you use that helps you to translate what you see in your mind to words on paper in a way that allows other people to understand what you’ve envisioned.

Ultimately, the term “proper grammar” seems to evoke this idea of rules upon rules that just aren’t easy or enjoyable to use. Then again, what chemist is going to say that his favorite part of experimentation is the beakers? What musician will say that for them, it’s all about tuning up the instrument? This applies just as much to writers. Proper grammar isn’t the reason people write; we do it to tell stories, to inspire audiences, to create something meaningful, and so much more. Grammar is simply the tool that allows us to share our ideas through writing.

The Fourth Wall and the Sledgehammer in Spec Ops: The Line

Many of us grew up hearing about the evils of using the word “you” in writing. It is often taught — somewhat lazily — as a steadfast rule, when really it’s more of a way to keep you from making unintended shifts in tense.

Often, in writing, we’re supposed to put our audience in a glass box, where they’re seen, but not interacted with. This is true not only in writing, but in many forms of media.

This is why it’s so jarring (and rare) to see someone on a TV show or in a movie look directly at the camera.

That would be breaking the “fourth wall,” that fictional plane that separates actor from audience, beyond which we suspend our disbelief and accept that the fiction we see is in an enclosed space, and that the characters on screen are ignorant of anybody watching. We expect that we are invisible spectators, watching events unfold independent of our own existence.

But what happens when you break that fourth wall on purpose? That’s something that happens, particularly when you want to say something directly to your audience. I’m doing it right now, for starters. But I want to talk about a game that does this in a more subtle, more controversial, and (I would argue) more meaningful way.

Spec Ops: The Line logo - foreground person with bandana covering face, background people marching with guns

Spec Ops: The Line succeeds in many ways both as a game and as a storytelling device. As a representative of the intersection between video game and digital narrative, it may be the most important game to come out in several years. But before I get ahead of myself with praise, some background. Continue reading “The Fourth Wall and the Sledgehammer in Spec Ops: The Line”

The Ins and Outs of Outlining

“First, write an outline.”

picture of book with outline numbers

Some people love outlines.  They find it helps organize their thoughts and guides their research and writing in a way that saves time and effort.  It prevents them from going down tangents that are unnecessary for the assignment.  The outline also breaks a large project down into small and achievable tasks. This method becomes the virtual trail down the mountain, preventing them from getting lost in the wilderness of ideas.

However, for other people outlines are the bane of writing. They dutifully try to write rows of ideas prefaced by little Roman letters and numbers with periods after them.  The dry process often only results in a paper that almost feels formulaic and forced. They prefer to write organically and just see where the writing goes.

For those doing creative writing, the thought of using an outline seems almost unheard of– that is something reserved for essays and research projects.  Outlining almost seems like putting a beautiful wild horse into a corral; making sad limitations on something that should run free.

Yet, outlines can be powerful tools in ALL types of writing.  It helps us step back and evaluate the content and pace of our message.  We can use them to judge our structure and check for gaps in our logic or narration.

Author and instructor, Aaron Hamburger writes in the New York Times about his method of reverse outlining when he is writing creatively.  He lets the story grow organically for the first draft and THEN writes an outline based on what he has already written.  This allows him to evaluate the pace and completeness of the story.

If you want to improve your writing and take it up to the next level, try outlining. At any step of the writing process an outline can help bring clarity and objectivity to what your writing conveys to others.

Character Building Without Writing: Playing your Protagonist into Existence

Sometimes, in fiction writing, you have a really good idea for a certain type of character, but you’re not sure what story to put him in.

Sometimes, you have a good idea for a story, but struggle with building a character.

Sometimes you want to share that idea with the world and tell your character’s story, but you don’t have the slightest idea how to start. In fact, that’s probably most of the time.

When I’m faced with a situation like that, I put my character through something like a stress test. That is to say, I’ll put said character through a number of unusual scenarios to see how they act. In other words, I role-play them.

The amount of choice given to players in modern role-playing games (RPGs) is ever-increasing, chiefly because the point of playing them is the ability to, you know, role play. Historically, video game RPGs have considered “role playing” as basically stepping into the role of a pre-fabricated character and playing through his/her story. And your story-building options are twofold: win, or lose. Continue reading “Character Building Without Writing: Playing your Protagonist into Existence”

Do-it-Yourself Storytelling in Video Games

In most video games or digital narratives, the story is provided to you as part of the experience. Some games, like Dys4ia, are specifically geared toward telling a story as their entire purpose.

But in some cases, you only have the digital environment to work with, and often, that environment gives you only a context, and no particular narrative.

This is where a lot of classic game stories come from. For instance:

Save the princess!

Super Mario Brothers

And, um… save the princess!


(The Legend of Zelda)

Continue reading “Do-it-Yourself Storytelling in Video Games”

Trendspotting: Go Tigers!

By Alyson GinesHi folks, it has been pretty clear what this week’s trend is: Detroit Tigers! Consultants and students alike have been proudly representing our team as the excitement towards the World Series has been mounting. We love seeing people passionate about something, and sharing in their enthusiasm. Are you writing a short story you’re psyched about? Working on a paper about your favorite book? Writing a personal statement to get into your top grad school? Bring it into The Writing Center; we would love to collaborate with you. And Go Tigers!

Two people wear Detroit Tigers sports wear






Digital Storytelling and Creative Writing

You don’t know me (yet), but here are some things you need to know about me: I love creative writing, I love reading, and I rarely pick up a book for fun.

Yes, you read that correctly. I didn’t read Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings after their second books. I didn’t read the Hunger Games at all. And I haven’t touched Dickens or many of the classic pieces of fiction that are so often considered exemplary in the field of creative writing. For that matter, I didn’t watch their movies, either. Yet I love reading. I love storytelling, and I actually do, professionally, a form of creative non-fiction writing.

Continue reading “Digital Storytelling and Creative Writing”

Creative Writing Focus Group

Join us for a focus group on Creative Writing!

Wednesday, July 11th @ 6pm

FREE Pizza and Pop will be provided

What: A meeting to develop our Creative Writing Group. We’d love to talk with you about what you would like to see in this group, including location and time of meetings. 
 Everyone – community members, students, grad students, and professors interested in creative writing. 
300 Bessey Hall, The Writing Center
Wednesday, July 11, 2012 @  6:00pm

Please let us know if you are coming (so we can order pizza for you) creativewritingwcmsu@gmail.com