Creative Writing: Interactive and Aware
by Lilianna Serbicki, Aim Academy English Teacher
While there are a myriad of writing guidelines and “best practices”, creative writing in particular has a very intuitive element. A delicate balance between discipline and individual expression is required. This is why detailed critiques – from both myself and student peers – are such a vital portion of my Creative Writing course. My students’ imaginations are given free rein and then continually “pared down”, with elegant and succinct writing as our goal.
My creative writing class has a three-pronged focus: literary analysis, student writing, and peer critiques. Each section of the course focuses on a different element or genre: Character, Dialogue, Setting, Tone, Conflict, Point of View, Plot, Science Fiction, Realism, Poetry, Drama, etc. As we explore each topic, we analyze a work that highlights the appropriate element, complete a creative piece, and participate in peer critiques. We study short pieces by authors such as Flannery O’Connor, Stephen Crane, Jack London, Katherine Mansfield, James Thurber, Tennessee Williams, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, and others.
The goal of isolating literary elements is to help students write with a greater awareness. All of my recent students were bright, enthusiastic, eager readers. However, even a well-read high-schooler who is working independently may not consider how individual elements such as tone, point of view, and dialogue enrich a piece of fiction. A writer must deliberately use each of these elements to tell their story in the best way using the best choice of words; last year we often worked through several drafts of a single short story to experience how writing evolves. As we added new elements to our repertoire, students were able to “build upon” the skills learned in each project.
I am immensely proud of my creative writing classes the past few years. My students were able to build a full writing portfolio for use in their homeschool portfolio, contests applications, literary magazines, and other venues. Several students have won Scholastic Art and Writing Awards; others have won college scholarships for their writing.
I look forward to a wonderful 2013-2014 year! I will close with a few words from Creative Writing student Carmen Paddock. Carmen’s sympathetic analysis of human nature and keen ear for dialogue made her pieces uniquely poignant!
“Mrs. Serbicki’s Creative Writing class is a must not only for those students interested in fiction and poetry, but for any student wanting to expand their writing horizons beyond the research paper (and have a great time while doing so)…Covering both the elements and forms of fiction made it unique and well-rounded among the other online creative writing classes that I’ve seen.
While there was some variation in the structure, we read and discussed a famous piece of fiction one week and then worked on a related fiction project the next; while prompts were (thankfully) often provided, there was a lot of leeway to pursue our own ideas and plot lines! We also had weekly Skype chats which were wonderful for that jolt of inspiration – chatting with Mrs. Serbicki and classmates was a great way to free writer’s block! Over the course of the year my favorite projects were the character study, the dialogue study, the speculative fiction assignment, and the poetry weeks…I feel that Mrs. Serbicki’s instruction helped me get past my fear of writing fiction – under her guidance I actually finished stories – and fine-tuned my narration and plot development, steering me away from melodrama into honest, engaging tales. I highly, highly recommend this class to any high school student interested in honing storytelling skills or just looking for a fun alternative to traditional English courses.”