Welcome to the first session in my five-part Christian writing course, in which we will look at:

You may do this course on your own or you might like to join up with other writers for discussion. Feel free to post comments or ask questions at the end of the post.


God the storyteller

If you ask most people why they want to write they will say it’s because they have ‘something to share’. And it’s not surprising, because that’s how God made us. God himself had something to share when the Word became Flesh (John 1:1) in the form of Jesus. It’s no coincidence, I believe, that the Word in this case is a translation of the Greek word Logos which means ‘living word’. This is the ‘word’ that created all life when it was spoken by God in the beginning (Genesis 1:1).

So the use of words, whether spoken or written, is a creative force. Ideas are spread through them, relationships are forged with them and our personalities are manifest through them. The corollary is also true. Words can bring death, so they need to be used wisely. And all the more so when those words are given permanence on the printed page. A spoken word may soon be forgotten, but a written word may be there forever, multiplied every time it is reprinted. God chose to use the written word as a record of his communication with us.

Exercise 1:
Take your Bible and divide the books into the following cateogries. There may be some overlap.

  • Poetry
  • Allegorical storytelling
  • Drama
  • Apologetics
  • Non-fiction memoirs and history

God used poetry (Psalms, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes), allegorical storytelling (Genesis 1 – 3, Job, Jesus’ parables), drama (Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelations), apologetics (the epistles), non-fiction memoirs and histories (the history books of the OT, the Gospels, Acts). The Bible reflects all writing styles and all reading tastes. I doubt St Paul would have been comfortable telling parables, or the writer of Job explaining the theological background to the theme of atonement.


Finding your style

Some people are more suited to writing poetry than prose and some people do well at both. A poem is a snapshot of a moment. It’s a literary picture painted with words. However, if you can’t rest until you know what happened before and after a moment or event, then you’re probably a natural storyteller. A story can be allegorical (reflecting a message), but it doesn’t have to be; it can simply be ‘art for arts sake’. (We will be discussing the pros and cons of message-based writing in the next session.) If you are interested more in what people say than the surroundings they’re in, you may be a dramatist. If you feel uncomfortable dealing with the imaginary or made-up, you may do better at non-fiction. If you have a compulsion to explain, defend or teach principles from an event or moment, you are probably an apologist.

Discussion: What is your natural writing style? What have you written before? What genre would you like to try that you haven’t?


Exercise 2:
Take a picture that attracts you and write down 20 words that come to mind. You may struggle to find 20, but get as close as you can. The first 10 will come easily, but it’s as you grapple to find the obscure and rare that you will unearth some gems. Do not at this point try to form them into sentences.

Click to enlarge

Exercise 3:
Now take those 20 words and form them into a

  • poem
  • story
  • scene from a play

Exercise 4:
Choose another picture and explain, as if to a non-believer, how it reflects God’s love. Now explain the same concept by using a story from your own life.

Click to enlarge

Discussion: Which of these exercises – 3 or 4 – came the easiest to you? How does it relate to your earlier discussion of your natural writing style? Which piece of writing expresses the essence of your chosen picture/s best?


Creativity and Art

What is creativity? The Collins dictionary defines it as ‘the ability to cause something to exist’. Without getting into too much of an existential discussion, I would say that with every thought that is expressed, something has been created. It was Descarte who said: ‘I think, therefore I am’; well I would add, ‘I think, therefore I create.’ But how do we express our thoughts? Sometimes we do it verbally, other times by body language and still again through what is loosely termed ‘art’. Art takes place when a thought is expressed and fixed in such a way that other people may experience it on an aesthetic level – through music, writing, painting, sculpture, choreography and so on.

Many artists say that their best work takes place when they ‘by-pass’ the thought and simply express the feeling. This may be true, but for writers, who use a verbal medium, a feeling must first be converted into a thought before it can be put into words. Don’t over analyse the thought before you express it, as this way you can ‘channel’ the purest interpretation of the feeling, but some cognitive process needs to take place. Some writers prefer to mull over a thought and give it form before they put pen to paper – I’m one of them – but it’s good practice to try and switch off the ‘editor’ at least for the first draft. First response trigger exercises are useful in this regard and can release some unexpected words and images.

Exercise 5:
Write down your first response to these words or phrases:

  • Blue ball
  • And that’s when the sadness came
  • Coffee

The first task of a good writer is to convert feelings into thoughts and then into words. This is the raw material that can then be converted into something more permanent. Some writers refuse to toy with their first drafts, believing their creativity will be diluted; I disagree. Allowing your critical mind to improve a piece of writing is where the craftsman meets the artist. Something produced only by the former will lack soul and something by the latter will lack form. Good writing is a combination of art and craft.

Don’t forget to join me for the next session on message-based writing.

24 comments on “What’s your style?

  1. Louise on said:

    Thankyou very much I enjoyed this and it has helped me get started at writing

    • Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

      you’re welcome Louise. You may also want to look at my general creative writing course too http://creative-writing-course.thecraftywriter.com/

  2. Satrena on said:

    I have enjoyed the first 5 exercises and look forward to completeing the whole course. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Lynn A Stevens on said:

    I’ve been looking for something to inspire me and give me back my writing Muse. I hope this will be one of many good connections.

  4. Sermantha on said:

    Hi Fiona,
    Thanks a million for this free course. I have been struggling with the idea of focussing on using my writing gift in this genre but I was afraid to even try since I had no idea where to start. Thanks for giving me the courage to start! Finally!
    I am an English teacher by profession but I have been given the opportunity to teach unemployed persons who have suffered tremendous socioeconomic and emotional horrible experiences. I would like to use my creative writing background and use creative writing as a form of therapy or healing for them. Do you offer these courses – free or privately? Can you advise me as to how to obtain the required skill to teach creative writing as a form of therapy? Thanks
    Sermantha

    • fiona on said:

      Hi Sermantha,

      I did a MA in creative writing but I had already started teaching before that. An old teacher of mine asked me to fill in for her when she couldn’t teach a class. So I learnt from watching other tutors and attending classes then doing my own thing. I have heard that there are some creative writing MAs that have a therapy dimension but off the top of my head I don’t know who or where. Perhaps an internet search would turn something up. I have heard though of an organisation that promotes creative writing as therapy, perhaps you could get in touch with them http://penandtonic.org/

      Hope you can find something
      Fiona

  5. Mary Sue on said:

    Fiona, I was looking for inspiration to get me back into writing. It has been awhile since I had stirred up my creativity. Thanks, Mary Sue

  6. Barbara Brown on said:

    I really liked this first course. It helped me to write a poem,a short story. a short play and a page of biography. I thank you for having this free course online. I think it will help me very much in my writing. I have a book of poems published by my church and a chapbook of poems by my brother who now is gone. I would like for you to read them sometime, but I have to figure out how to send it to you. Thank you.

    • Hello Barbara, I’m very glad you got something out of the course. You should consider doing the extended creative writing course (not from a Christian perspective though). http://creative-writing-course.thecraftywriter.com/ I hope you will not be too offended if I do not take up your offer of looking at your poems. I am inundated with literally hundreds of people who want me to look at their writing and I simply can’t do it as I have to lecture, run my business and look after my family . I do however, as part of my business, offer a critiquing service. I employ professional poetry tutors who could give you critical feedback on your writing. If you would like to take that further, do get in touch, but if not, I hope you continue to grow in your writing.

      God bless
      Fiona

  7. Maria Suzanne on said:

    God bless your generosity. I enjoyed reading and the more I am encouraged to keep on writing. God bless you!

  8. Pamela J on said:

    Thanks for a new beginning. I can’t wait to get started.
    God bless you

  9. Maurice Mulenga on said:

    I have liked and enjoyed the course briefing. In the first part, it sounded like a course in Theology, later into loomed into literary forms or genres of literature in general and finally it was a complete Christian writing. That as so excellent. Thank you Madame
    Maurice Mulenga

  10. Maurice Mulenga on said:

    This is exciting and indeed very enthralling to me. I feel like starting the course right away. Christian writing training courses in Malawi, Central Africa, also called the Warm Heart of Africa, are very rare. I enjoyed the course and I wish to be enrolled.

    • fiona on said:

      Hello Maurice, this is the course. I’m very glad you’ve enjoyed it. You do not enrol for the course. It is just free information that’s on the web for you to read.

  11. Maurice Mulenga on said:

    My interest in Creativity and Art.

  12. N Thomas on said:

    Thank you for helping me hone my talent.
    I love Christian Creative Writing.

  13. I’m so glad I found you! This was such an inspiration for me!

  14. thank you for this. I just needed to get started and I could not find a way to.

  15. rocky galati on said:

    thank you for this. I just needed to get started!

  16. Naoma Jean Bird on said:

    I am excited to get started. It is perfect for me as I can do the course work at my own pace. Thank you so much for making this available.
    Nomi Jean

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