Skip to main content

Creative writing (show, not tell)

Watch this to develop your approach to Creative Writing in Higher English (and to confirm time travel is possible)

search thinkfour.

Your Physics teacher has no doubt told you that time travel is not possible, the maths doesn’t exist and, although all the great scientific minds are working on making the impossible possible, we’re not quite there yet.

As an English teacher, of course, I completely disagree.

Writers have been transporting people through time for hundreds of years.

Just last week, for instance, I was wandering the rather smelly cobbled streets of Elizabethan England; this week, I have a trip planned to Crete in the late 1930s.

I am a time traveller, and so are you. So let’s go explore.

This is Thinkfour.

So, how do writers make time travel possible when most of us don’t have a clue about the Maths? We show you and make you feel that you are in 1930’s Crete, we don’t tell you that you are there.

And this is what you need to do in your Creative writing - whether you are drafting a Personal Reflective Essay or a Short Story, you need to transport me to another time and another place, and you need to show me what it is like there.

I have never been to that moment you are about to describe: I wasn’t there on your first day of school; I wasn’t sitting next to you in the hospital, I wasn’t with you when you stood on the top of that mountain you just climbed.

But I want to be.
So you have to show me.

Whenever you read a really great book, the kind you get lost in, the author is able to transport you to a different time because they describe places, people and emotions in a way that you can imagine. You are no longer sitting in your bedroom but are elsewhere in someone else’s life.

There are two great ways that you can do this: by using imagery – metaphor, simile and personification – and by using your senses to make your experience tangible.

You already know all about imagery. You’ve been dissecting writers’ imagery and showing how it works effectively whenever you analyse your Close Reading passages. And as you already know how to take them apart, you can put some together to make your own writing more visual.

The trick is to find a way of describing a setting, for example, in a way that your reader can visualise it to convey a deeper meaning.

In his novel, “Hard Times”, Charles Dickens, the master of description, describes the industrial Coketown as being smothered by “serpents of smoke”. This metaphor not only suggests the choking, murky and polluted nature of the factory laden environment but also an insidiousness, as if something evil is hovering over the town.

He could have just said that Coketown is smelly and dirty but if he had, I doubt we would still be reading his books today.

But showing isn’t enough: your other senses are also helpful in describing your setting and transporting your reader.

There are certain sounds and smells that prompt memories: the low hum of a lawnmower and scent of freshly mown grass takes me away from my wet October afternoon and magically transports me to a warm summer day, lying on the lawn making daisy chains.

The spicy smell of baking gingerbread mingled with the scent of pine needles suggests that Christmas is just around the corner

The acrid smell of disinfectant and the beep of a machine fills me with the fear of the hospital visit.

The clatter of horses’ hooves on cobbles, the clang of the blacksmith’s hammer and the cackling of the fishwives’ chatter transports me back in time to somewhere I have never been, but I can imagine it, if you describe those sounds and smells to me.

So don’t let anyone tell you that time travel hasn’t been invented yet.

Your imagination is a time machine that is capable of amazing time travel – not only taking you to other times and places, but to different worlds as well.

And the truly wonderful thing about this magnificent time machine of yours is that you can share it with others.

By showing what you see, hear and smell, you can take us with us on your journey into your memory and your imagination.

So close your eyes, and enjoy your travels.

This was thinkfour, thanks for watching.

Close Menu