The Imaginative Mode
Characteristics of imaginative writing:
1. Clarity: It doesn’t confuse people. (This sounds so obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of writers who think they have to be clever or coy or literary which just leaves the reader in the dark.)
2. Form: It has a beginning, a middle and an ending. The beginning draws readers in and the ending is satisfying. This holds true for fiction, memoir, personal essays, autobiographies, and stories for kids. Occasionally a writer who’s a genius ignores this,but most of us aren’t geniuses and can’t ignore it.
3. Emotion: It’s emotionally charged and the reader cares what happens to the protagonist. We either cry or laugh or are scared or feel something.
4. Meaning and connection: It’s about people or situations the reader can connect to. Either a story we enter into with the author for entertainment, or a subject or emotion that we too are dealing with or want to learn about, or can find humor in. It is not a story about the author gazing at his or her belly button. In some way the writing connects to the rest of the world.
5. Language: The author cares deeply about words and their power.No overblown adjectives or adverbs (and only those absolutely necessary for information.)No flabby cliches. The author loves language and hones and rewrites every sentence.
* Short stories
* Letters to self (future/past)
* Letters to others
* Diary entries
* Interior monolgues
* Autobiography, etc.
Have you clearly shown:
o Topic – what you are writing about
o Tone – how your writing sounds (consistent throughout writing)
o Structureand Features– what the form you’ve chosen should look like and contain
o Message – what you want to say
o Purpose – why you want to say it
o Audience – who do you say it
o Language – how you want to say it
* Identify the language you’ve used and how it is appropriate for the audience and form?
* Identify the form and why it supports your purpose?
* Express what your overall message is to your audience (explain contention)?
* Discuss how your piece shows an awareness of purpose and audience?
* Link your piece to the text?
* Link your piece to identity and belonging?
* Show that you’ve thought of different perspectives (or interpretations, positive and negative elements, underlying reasons, etc) of the text, context or your written
* Show you have thought about the complexities of the issue/topics in the text and how this is reflected in your piece?
* Discuss how you’ve used ideas/arguments from the context and set text in your writing?
* Show the relation of your piece to the prompt?
* Show that you’ve used a varied but appropriate vocabulary?
Writing from personal experience – ‘Me, Myself and I’
Writing about yourself seems like it would be an easy task – but sometimes sticking too closely to the reality makes it harder to use the interesting techniques that earn high marks. This task will tell you what the purpose is and who the are – but you may have to work them out from the task.
It is likely that you will be asked to inform the reader about some aspect of your life. Writing about your own life is called ‘autobiography.'
You may be given another purpose – perhaps the task will ask you to use an experience from your own life to help others deal with problems, or another
dual-purpose task. Make sure that you think carefully about how to achieve both purposes.
Writing from personal experience can cover all sorts of types of writing: travel writing, stories, inspirational speeches and more.
What is autobiography?
Traditionally, an autobiography tells the story of the writer’s life. But the task will ask you to take a small part of your life and make it into a whole story. Don’t fall into the trap of telling the story of your life with dates and places in order – autobiography is about making something personal into an interesting read which captivates the reader, rather than getting all the boring details in.
Try one of the following exercises to get some ideas for writing about yourself. Make a mind map for each one (a spider diagram where you can make further links to the original ideas):
- What five things would you save if your house was on fire? Why those things? What do they say about you and why are they special to you? Now imagine you can only save one of them – which one do you choose and why?
- What’s your earliest memory? Focus on the details – what can you see? What can you hear? How do you feel? How old were you – why did this memory stick
around? What do you think it says about you?
- If you were a song, which song would you be and why? Do the lyrics have special meaning for you or does the song remind you of a specific time or person? Or does the music reflect your personality - is it fun and upbeat, quiet and meaningful or dark and moody?
- If your friends had to list ten words to summarise you, what would they be? Why does each word represent you? Do you agree with all of them? It may be that
other people see you differently to how you see yourself – that’s something important to bring out in writing from personal experience.
Any of these things might be useful to add detail and colour to your particular task: adding rich details like these can help to make a more interesting piece of writing, and keep you away from simply listing facts.
Avoiding the pitfalls
When you’re writing about your own life, it can be easy to forget to use all the tools you have in your writing toolkit. There are some key things to remember when writing from personal experience.
- Facts can be dull – so don’t just list them. If there are key things that the reader needs to know – like where you were born, or how many schools you’ve
been to – then weave them in to your narrative. Spread out factual information.
Be careful about what you pick to write about. Something which is very important to you can make for very effective writing. It can also be difficult
to write objectively about something which is too close to your emotions. That can make it more difficult to think about which details the reader needs – and
which you should keep to yourself.
- Treat writing from personal experience as you would other creative writing. Just because it’s real life doesn’t mean it has to be written like a news
report. Make sure you use varied sentence structures, a range of punctuation and manipulate your language for effect. Metaphors, similes and other imagery all
- You don’t have to be completely truthful. You are drawing on your personal experience but you are also writing for effect. You can miss out things which
don’t matter, or change what someone said if you can make the piece funnier or more dramatic.
The ‘voice’ which you write in is an important part of creative writing. ‘Voice’ is the tone and style in which you write – the personality behind the writing. In writing from personal experience knowing what your voice should be is easy – it’s you! To get the most out of it, exaggerate your personality. When we write about our own lives we naturally use the first person, using the words like ‘me’, ‘myself’ and ‘I.’
Many of the tasks will enable you to speak straight to the reader. This is called direct address. You can create a much more intimate atmosphere, or act as if the reader is your friend. This can make writing much more effective. You can use the second person pronoun (‘you’) to show that you’re talking directly to your audience. But the tone of your writing will do more of the work.
Look at the task closely – how formal do you need to be? A lot of autobiographical writing is informal, letting you make jokes and be yourself. Some tasks will require you to be more formal though – be careful to check which way you should write.
Treating yourself as a character
When you write about yourself you need to think of yourself as a character.
- Give the reader a clear idea of what you’re like – think of two or three aspects of your personality, and let those come across. Don’t try to pack
- Think of the things you might notice in a novel which symbolise something about a person in that novel: their tattered clothes might show that they are
poor, or that they don’t care about their appearance; they might carry a teddy bear which shows that they haven’t really grown up yet, or they might wear
something that reminds them of someone important. What symbol can you put into your autobiographical writing to show what you’re like?
- If you are including pieces of direct speech in your piece of writing, think about using the right vocabulary choices. Were you much younger when this story
is taking place? Make sure the direct speech reflects the person you were when the incident happened, not the person you are now.
Imaginative essay characteristics
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