Creative Writing Research
the rhetoric of page, stage, and screen
Creative writing is a “rhetorical act” that inherently manipulates the reader or audience. Wayne C. Booth’s The Rhetoric of Fiction shaped my understanding of what it means to be an author. As the New York Times suggested, Booth reminded us that “authors seduce, cajole and more than occasionally lie to their readers in the service of narrative” (2005). When I am writing I do not ponder the grand concepts explored by Booth; they are internalized. What I have wondered for years is how to teach the concepts as skills, leading to art. Can the rhetorical devices of effective creative writing be taught?
Creative Writing Interests
- How do writers guide readers within fictional works?
- What are successful literary strategies and why?
- How does literature shape and reflect formal philosophies?
- How can we foster life-long creative expression, especially writing?
There is nothing more magical than being “pulled into” a creative work. How writers accomplish this is of particular interest to me as a writer and scholar. Even faced with narrators or main characters we deeply distrust or even dislike, some writers manage to hold our attention. The choices made by successful authors might form a pattern, which would allow us to predict how readers will respond to new works.
Hollywood, for better or worse, evaluates screenplays based on the theory of predictable patterns and audience responses. Databases of successful films are used to analyze new works and rate their potential. I’m not sure we can be that certain of patterns, but there are definitely some formulas that serve as basic starting points in creative writing.
I am interested in the influence of Continental Philosophy on writing, particularly modern fiction and new media. The term “existential” is used to describe many works of fiction, but does the term apply? Is existentialism misunderstood by critics of fiction, placed under the heading “postmodern” for convenience? The need to understand the “self” is a major element of fiction, especially in works arguing that existence itself is illogical or absurd.
Philosophers, even those challenging “meaning,” tend to create complex lexicons. They do this because meaning and clarity do matter to them, even while they argue meaning is personal.
I support any effort to encourage life-long creative writing. Why do students come to dislike writing? Why do some adults dream of writing, but hesitate to try? I would not claim that everyone can be a successful novelist or screenwriter, but I do believe that writing is a form of the innate human desire to share and communicate. The key for scholars is to locate ways to make writing fun and interesting to as many individuals as possible.