As a child I made up stories in my head, mostly about people’s pets. The majority of them were entirely descriptions such as fur color, number of spots, eye color and size. When I bemoaned the fact that these just weren’t real stories, an older person (probably all of twenty four) told me that my pets needed to run into some problems, and then figure out how to get out of them. My next story about a pony, who jumped the fence when frightened by a huge dog, then ran away and became lost, was better. The terrified pony never did figure out how to get back home. So, the story ended with “and he never returned.” Perhaps learning to survive in the wild could have been a decent ending. But, I just didn’t know enough about how horses did that.
However, my story writing improved with advice. So, we can ditch the idea that writing novels is a skill that cannot be taught. This is countered by the fact that not all people seek to be creative when writing fiction. Instead, some people assume whoever is making money has figured out the one best way to do it right. So, they follow the style of famous authors and do not attempt to create their own individual one. When studying creativity, I encountered the idea from more than one researcher that creative people go against the crowd. It is their nature not to conform to what most of society is doing.
Writers can learn about the aesthetics of style by studying the work of other writers and still make their own choices. Instead of parroting proscriptive lists of things that one should never do as a writer, I try to seek out authors who have done those forbidden things and still produced beautiful work. I recall the anti-hook at the beginning of War with the Newts by Karel Čapek. This rambling paragraph-long first sentence came out of the mouth of a tipsy steamer captain. Hardly an invitation to jump in and read. Yet, it intrigued me and so did meeting a new set of characters with each of the lengthy chapters. They were more than chapters; they were stories in the continuing saga of the large sea dwelling salamanders as they began to compete with man to rule the earth.
Writers who want to be creative tend to experiment. They seek advice from writers that they admire. These other writers realize the differences between individual styles and don’t attempt to force everyone into their type of writing. There’s this lovely proverb about “nothing new under the sun,” which lets us off the hook from creating something completely original. My writing is based on my experiences and imagination blended with what I’ve learned from others. It needs to reflect the part of me that makes me feel different and a bit out of place when around other people.