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Creative Story

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English

Who doesn't love a good story? Stories create meaning and help us see things in new ways. In an English Creative Writing class, you'll use your imagination to tell a fictional or nonfictional story. Writing a creative short story will help you to practice your writing skills and think like an author as you identify the elements and ideas that shape your story. Your task: to use these elements and ideas to come up with something entertaining and have fun.

What is the Meaning of a Creative Story?

Creative story: an imaginatively told story that can be fictional or nonfictional and uses creative written visuals.

Think about the last television episode you watched. It's likely that there were characters in a location, a situation to address, problems to solve, and a moment, at the end, when everything came together. This is an example of a creative story.

Creative Story: Types

The two primary types of creative stories are creative fiction and creative nonfiction. The difference between the two is the basis of the story they tell. In creative fiction, the story is made up. In creative nonfiction, the story is not made up, although the details of it often are.

Let's take a closer look at each of these types.

Creative Fiction

The first thing you might think of when someone says "creative story" is creative fiction.

Fiction: literature that is made up or imagined. Fiction does not contain real events, characters, or facts.

A creative fiction story is a story that is made up. Creative fiction stories are sometimes referred to as fictional narratives. They tell a story that has been made up by the author.

Creative Nonfiction

Even stories based on real experiences have some made-up elements. Creative nonfiction stories are stories that are based on true events; however, the author makes up the elements they use to tell the story.

A biopic film about a celebrity's life has both factual and fictional elements. While the facts of location and timing might be real, the details are fictionalized to make the story more interesting. The author might imagine what conversations took place, how a character felt, or what they might have worn.

Some of the key differences between creative fiction and nonfiction are:

  • Creative fiction contains fictional stories and characters.
  • Creative nonfiction is based on true stories and/or real characters.
  • Creative fiction is based on made-up, original versions of places and times.
  • Creative nonfiction attempts true-to-life depictions of real places and times.

Some of the key similarities between creative fiction and nonfiction are:

  • Both creative fiction and nonfiction might use fictional dialogue and details.
  • Both creative fiction and nonfiction use the elements of creative stories to make the story interesting.

Creative Fiction vs. Creative Nonfiction. Creative Story StudySmarterCreative fiction vs. creative nonfiction, StudySmarter Originals

Examples of Creative Stories

Creative stories are everywhere. Let's take a look at some examples of both fictional and nonfictional creative stories.

Examples of Creative Fiction Stories

You have probably seen a lot of fictional creative stories, such as:

  • Novels, e.g., Harper Lee'sTo Kill a Mockingbird (1960).
  • Short stories, e.g., Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" (1948).
  • Fairy tales, e.g., Little Red Riding Hood (seventeenth century).
  • Films and television shows based on fictional characters and scenarios, e.g., Lana and Lilly Wachowski's The Matrix (1999)

Even though creative fiction is based on made-up events and characters, it can still have real-world significance. For example, even though both Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is entirely fictional, it was written with real-world issues in mind.

Harper Lee was inspired by her own experiences when she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. Although Atticus Finch was a fictional character, he was based on Lee's father, Amasa Coleman Lee, a lawyer and newspaper editor. The plot of the novel was based on a murder case Lee's father had worked on in 1919.

If To Kill a Mockingbird had been a work of creative nonfiction, Lee would have tried to stay true to real-life events and characters. However, these real events merely inspired the novel; it is not based on them. As a work of fiction, the novel includes made-up versions of the time and place where Lee grew up.

Examples of creative nonfiction stories

Fiction isn't the only type of creative story! Here are some creative stories that have been based on real events:

  • Memoirs, e.g., Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love (2006).
  • Personal essays, e.g., Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own (1929).
  • Novels based on real events, e.g., Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1965).
  • Poetry collections, e.g., Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969).
  • Film and television shows based on real events, e.g., Netflix's Inventing Anna (2022).

Just because creative nonfiction is based on real stories, that doesn't mean authors can't be creative in how they tell those stories! For example, in his nonfiction novel, In Cold Blood, Truman Capote tried to be as true-to-life as possible in his retelling of the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas.

Capote wanted to use a more interesting way of telling real stories. He believed journalistic reports could be too dry. He was the first author to use the term nonfiction novel to describe his work. He defined the nonfiction novel as "a narrative form that employed all the techniques of fictional art but was nevertheless immaculately factual."1

To write In Cold Blood, Capote conducted interviews with everyone connected to the case. He did extensive, in-depth research to ensure he could tell the story as accurately as possible. He used this research to tell a factual, true story. But he wrote the story using the elements of creative storytelling to keep things interesting.

Outlining a Creative Story with Elements

Whether you are writing a story of creative fiction or nonfiction, you will need to use the same elements: characters, setting, plot, and point of view. All creative stories contain these elements.

Characters

Short stories are populated with characters.

Characters: people, animals, beings, creatures, or things in a story. They can be fictional or nonfictional.

Characters drive the story. Without characters, we would have no one to root for!

Flat vs. Round Characters

Not all characters are the same. Some of them are flat, and some of them are round.

  • Flat characters: uncomplicated characters. Their personality can be summed up in 1 to 2 sentences.
  • Round characters: complex characters who often feel real.

Static vs. Dynamic Characters

Characters also differ in their abilities to change throughout the story.

  • Static characters: characters who do not change.
  • Dynamic characters: characters who change a lot.

Audiences tend to root for the dynamic characters and the changes they are undergoing. Of course, this doesn't mean they have to change for the better. Some dynamic characters change for the worse:

Anakin Skywalker of the Star Wars series changes a lot over time. He starts out as a Jedi. But, as he experiences hardships, he embraces the dark side and becomes a Sith lord.

Main Characters

The first characters we think of when we think about stories are the main characters or heroes at the center of the story. When most people think of the main character, they think of the protagonist.

Protagonist: Also known as the hero, the protagonist is the character that drives the story. They pursue the main goals of the story.

Main characters are often protagonists, but they don't have to be.

Where there is a protagonist, there is usually another type of main character: the antagonist.

Antagonist: the character who is the adversary of the protagonist. They struggle against the goals of the protagonist and often get in the way.

The defining characteristic of the antagonist is that they oppose the protagonist. They make it difficult for the protagonist to meet their goals.

Many people confuse the antagonist with a villain. But they are not quite the same.

Villain: an evil or mean character. They are malicious, cruel, or devoted to a wicked cause.

Antagonists are often villains. For example, in the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort is both the antagonist and a villain. But not all antagonists are villains:

Ernest Hemingway's wife, Hadley, is an antagonist in A Moveable Feast. In the story, Hadley inadvertently leaves Ernest's manuscript on a train. Her motives are not mean or evil. She simply forgot. But her forgetfulness gets in the way of Ernest publishing his manuscript.

Minor Characters

Not all characters can be main characters. Some characters only pop up occasionally. These characters serve specific purposes and are often flat and static. They are known as minor characters.

Minor characters: characters who don't play as large a role in a story as the main characters. Minor characters might help or interfere with the goals of the main characters.

Setting

Creative stories take place in different locations and times. They have different moods and atmospheres. All of this makes up the setting.

The setting is the background in which a story takes place. It includes the time, place, weather, and overall mood of the story.

The setting can influence how the reader feels about the story. It sets the mood (or atmosphere) for the story.

Mood (or atmosphere): the feeling a writer tries to evoke in the reader.

Writers use the setting of a story to influence their reader's emotions. When creating a setting, think about what you want the reader to feel.

Settings have several elements that can affect the mood of a story. Here are just a few:

  • Weather
  • Lighting
  • Architecture
  • Language and dialect
  • Technology

Plot

What happens in a story? This is determined by the plot.

Plot: the sequence of events in a story.

The plot includes a series of actions, choices, and experiences that shape the story. Each event causes another event. One thing always leads to the next.

Every plot follows a logical organization. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end. To convey the plot, you should follow a basic structure with these key elements:

  • The hook
  • A conflict
  • Exposition
  • Complications
  • The climax
  • Falling action
  • The resolution

The Hook

The best way to grab your reader's attention is to start the story with a hook.

Hook: a technique used to grab the reader's attention at the beginning of a story. The hook generates curiosity and interest in the story from the first sentence or paragraph.

Great stories start with an attention-grabbing hook. For example, Charles Dickens grabbed readers' attention with this opening line of A Tale of Two Cities (1859): "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."2

Exposition

Have you ever been dropped into a story with no idea of what's going on? You wonder who these characters are and how they got here. A little background information can help with that. Good stories use exposition to provide this background.

Exposition: an introduction to the story that provides background information on the characters, setting, and main conflict.

Exposition often appears toward the beginning of a story. It does not have to come first, though. At some early point in the story, it helps to include:

  • An introduction to the main characters. Who are they?
  • An explanation of the conflict. How did the characters get to this point?
  • A description of the setting. Where are these characters? When is this story taking place?

Complications

As characters overcome the main conflict, they might find smaller conflicts along the way. Complications make things more exciting.

Complications: problems that get in the way of characters reaching their goals and overcoming the main conflict of a story.

Characters can't overcome the main conflict too easily. That would be boring! Good stories have complications that make things more difficult. The audience can root for the characters through every complication.

Complications can be internal (character against themselves) or external (character against outside forces).

Climax

At some point in every story, the action reaches a peak. This is known as the climax.

Climax: the point of the story in which the main character or protagonist finally faces their biggest source of conflict. The climax is the point of the story with the most action and excitement.

The climax is the point where the characters overcome the main conflict of the story. Everything else in the story leads up to this moment.

Falling Action

After the tension of the climax, the reader might need some relief. This is where falling action comes into play.

Falling action: the point in a story where things start to calm down. After the climax, falling action ties up any loose ends so the story can come to a close.

Falling action releases the tension of the climax. It resolves any complications that have come up. It gives the reader a sense that the action is over and things are coming to a close.

Resolution

The final moment of a story comes when all conflict comes to a close. This ending point is known as the resolution.

Resolution: a final sentence or paragraph that resolves any remaining issues in a story.

The resolution offers the reader a sense of closure and ends the story, whether this is a "and they lived happily ever after" ending or not.

Point of View

Stories are always told from somebody's point of view. As a writer, it is up to you to decide whose point of view your story is told from.

Point of view: the perspective from which a story is told. Think of it as the eyes through which the reader sees the story.

The point of view is conveyed by the narrator.

Narrator: who or what is telling the story. The point of view is told through them.

There are different types of narrators. Each type of narrator offers a different point of view. Look to the table below for an overview of examples of creative stories and the different types of narrators and the points of view they offer.

Type of Narrator

Point of View

Examples

First-person narrator

Takes the point of view of the main character of the story. It's like the main character is speaking to the reader directly.This type of narrator uses first-person pronouns like "I," "me, "my," and "we."

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert is the first-person narrator. This is her experience, and she tells the story from her own point of view.

Second-person narrator

Takes the point of view of the story's writer. It's like the writer is having a conversation with the reader. This type of narrator uses second-person pronouns like "you" and "your."

In Dr. Seuss's Oh, The Places You'll Go!, Dr. Seuss is the second-person narrator. He speaks directly to the reader, telling them how successful they will be someday.

Third-person narrator

Takes the point of view of an outside narrator telling the story. It's like the narrator is telling the story for anyone to hear.This type of narrator uses third-person pronouns like "they," "she," "he," and "them."

In Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, he tells a story based on real events through a third-person narrator. Capote imagines the story through the eyes of several characters, and the narrator always knows what they are thinking.

Creative Story Ideas and Prompts

When writing a creative story, use ideas from common plot structures, character types, and settings. Not sure where to start? Let's take a look at some ideas of where to start when writing a creative story.

Ideas for where to start

When writing a creative story, it can be difficult to think of ideas. Here are some starting points

1. The Plot

You might start with a plot idea! Here are some ideas for common plot structures you might start with:

  • A Historical Event: Has a story from history ever captured your imagination? Think about how you would tell that story. What conversations do you imagine happened? What complications arose?

  • Mystery: Something surprising has happened! Maybe something was stolen. Or perhaps somebody found something unexplainable. Who will solve the mystery? What will they find?

  • Boy meets girl: They're perfect for each other, and they don't even know it yet! How will they meet? What will keep them from being together?

2. A Character

You could also start with characters. Think of who you want to write about. Then, let the story form around those characters. Here are some ideas for common character types you might start with:

  • Someone you know: Do you know somebody who would be an interesting character? Perhaps a friend, a family member, or even your family dog? Start by listing out their character traits. What kind of situations have they overcome? What are their strengths and limitations?
  • The flawed character: Everybody has flaws. What are some common human flaws you might explore in your story? Think about a flaw you or someone else struggle with. Think about what their flaw is, what conflict might arise from that flaw, and how they might overcome it.
  • The hero: Imagine the hero you have always wanted to be. What kind of person are they? Are they a police officer or a fireman? Or perhaps you prefer an unlikely hero, like Spiderman? Imagine a situation they might find themselves in.

3. The Setting

Sometimes the best stories start with a great setting. Think about a time or place you really want to explore. Maybe it's a place you've already been to! Here are some ideas for settings you might start with:

  • A place you have been: Pick any place you've been to before. What were your experiences like there? What challenges did you face? What did you learn from the experience?
  • An imaginary future: Some of the most interesting stories take place in the future. What do you think the future might be like? Who would live there? What would life be like for them? What obstacles might they have to overcome?
  • A distant past: Perhaps you have been studying a historical era. Consider what it might be like to live in that era. What struggles and hopes might people from that era have? You might even try to creatively tell the story of a true event!

4. Other approaches

Still struggling? That's okay! Try one of these other approaches to starting your story:

  • Tell your story: You have interesting things to say! Think about a time or place that means something to you. Write out what happened. What did you learn from it? What complications got in the way of you learning your lesson?
  • Explore a complicated relationship: Perhaps you are interested in relationships. Explore the complicated nature of a family relationship. What conflict might demonstrate the complicated nature of the relationship? How might the characters overcome the barriers separating them?
  • Imagine a backstory to a work of art: Works of art tell stories in a different way. Listen to a song you like. Look at a painting that moves you. Imagine the story behind it. Try to write it! Who is at the center of the story? What conflicts are they dealing with? How do they deal with it?

Creative Story - Key takeaways

  • A creative story is an imaginatively told story. Creative stories can be fictional or nonfictional, but they always use written visuals that creatively tell the story.
  • The two primary types of creative stories are creative fiction and creative nonfiction.
  • Whether you are writing a story of creative fiction or nonfiction, you will need to use the same elements: characters, setting, plot, and point of view.
  • When writing a creative short story, use ideas from common plot structures, character types, and settings.

1 Truman Capote. "The Story Behind a Nonfiction Novel," The New York Times. 1966.

2 Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities. 1859.

Frequently Asked Questions about Creative Story

A creative story is an imaginatively told story. Creative stories can be fictional or nonfictional, but they always use written visuals that creatively tell the story. 

To write a creative story, select characters, a setting, a plot, and a point of view. Put them all together to create an entertaining story.

An example of a creative story is the Brothers Grimms's Little Red Riding Hood. It has several characters, a forest setting, an exciting plot, and an omniscient narrator.

The types of creative story are creative fiction and creative nonfiction.

The best story in English is a subjective opinion. Everybody like something different. However, one of the most popular types of story in the English language is the hero's journey. In the hero's journey, the main character comes of age while going through fantastical trials and tribulations. Harry Potter, the Hobbit, and The Chronicles of Narnia are some examples of the hero's journey.

Final Creative Story Quiz

Question

What is a creative story?

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Answer

A creative story is an imaginatively told story. Creative stories can be fictional or nonfictional, but they always use written visuals that creatively tell the story.

Show question

Question

A novel is based on a true story. However, the dialogue and details are made up. What type of creative story is this an example of?

Show answer

Answer

creative nonfiction

Show question

Question

What are the key elements of a creative story?

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Answer

characters

Show question

Question

What are characters?

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Answer

Characters are people, animals, beings, creatures, or things in a story. They can be fictional or non-fictional.

Show question

Question

Is a protagonist a main character or minor character?

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Answer

A protagonist is a main character. They are central to the story.

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Question

A character in a story is well-developed with a complex personality. They do not change throughout the story. What kind of character does this describe?

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Answer

A round, static character

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Question

Are all main characters protagonists?

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Answer

No, all main characters are not protagonists. Some main characters experience the story but do not drive it through the pursuit of goals. These are main characters who are not protagonists.

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Question

What is an antagonist?

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Answer

An antagonist is the character who is the adversary of the protagonist. They struggle against the goals of the protagonist and often get in the way. 

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Question

Are all antagonists villains?

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Answer

No, all antagonists are not villains. Not all antagonists are evil or mean. Villains are evil or mean.

Show question

Question

What is the setting of a story?

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Answer

The setting of a story is the background in which the story takes place. It includes the time, place, weather, and overall mood of the story.

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Question

What are some of the elements of a setting that can influence the mood of a story?

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Answer

weather

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Question

What are some of the key elements used to structure the plot of a story?

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Answer

The Hook

Show question

Question

What is a hook used for in a creative story?

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Answer

The hook is used to grab the reader's attention in a creative story.

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Question

What is exposition in a creative story?

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Answer

Exposition is an introduction to the story. It provides background information on the characters, setting, and main conflict. 

Show question

Question

The protagonist is struggling against self-doubt on their journey. What type of complication is this? 

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Answer

internal

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Question

What is the climax of a creative story?

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Answer

The climax is the point of the story in which the main character or protagonist finally faces their biggest source of conflict. The climax is the point of the story with the most action and excitement. 

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After the intensity of a climax, what is needed to release the tension and tie up loose ends?

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Answer

falling action

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Question

What is the resolution of a story?

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Answer

The resolution is a final sentence or paragraph that resolves any remaining issues in a story.  

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Question

What is point of view in a creative story?

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Answer

Point of view is the perspective from which a story is told. Think of it as the eyes through which the reader sees the story.

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Question

Where can one start when searching for creative story ideas?

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Answer

The plot

Show question

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