Discovering The Form of Writing You Were Meant For

Editor’s note: this post was first published in 2010.

I think finding the right form is important for any writer. Just like an athlete has to pick what kind of sport to dedicate themselves to, a writer needs to know what form fits them best.

When I was growing up, I loved the short story. Like many kids, I had a short attention span, and the time and patience it took to write a short story was something I found favorable. “You mean all I have to do is write a couple of paragraphs! Cool!” That was my thinking at that age.

But somewhere at the end of high school, and the beginning of college, I stopped writing. I mean I was still writing, but I wasn’t really Writing (with a capital W). If that makes sense. Sometimes writers just write to pass the time. Kinda like an uninspired basketball player still shooting hoops long after their career is over. That’s what I did for a while.

Towards the back-end of college, I returned to Writing (with a capital W) by dabbling in playwriting. Most of my work reflected the plays I was reading. (I was a Drama major.) Some Shakespeare and Greek Tragedy, but mostly contemporary realistic dramas or political dramas. Secretly, I thought: bo-ring! But professors and mentors seemed to have me convinced me that realistic fiction plays were the way for me to go.

I loved having long monologues about what the character’s were thinking, and sometimes that just doesn’t work in a play. A play needs action, it needs conflict, and it usually needs all of that right away. A play is also very short. Which, in a way, worked for my college student short attention span (very much like my kid’s short attention span). With research papers that needed writing, books that needed reading, and final exams to study for, a play offered an easy breezy way to experiment with words and stories.

By the time I had rounded up my senior year of college, I had inhabited the “one-man show” form. Which is when you write one REALLY BIG monologue that also has to have the elements of a play:  action and conflict. Without them, yeah, your one-person show will be pretty dull.

In the “one-man show” format there was no cohesive story that could really be followed or developed. It’s all: character speaks, next character speaks, then the next one… Or, if your writing for one character, it’s:  this happened, then this happened, then… Basically it’s just no fun.

And I missed one of the things I love the most about reading when I was kid: magic. College professors seem to despise the word, unless it ends in “-al realism.” As in Magical Realism.

But what the heck does that mean? Just call it what it really is! Adult Fantasy. Maybe they don’t call it that because people will think its boring. (Or pornographic.) And it is boring.

Anyways… What I’m trying to say is that trial and error led me to a form that fit me:

Short story: Too short.

Plays: Too superficial.

Essay: Too straightforward. (Where are all the delicious metaphors?)

Performance Art/One-man Show: Too one-dimensional. (As in “one-person” dimensional.)

Poetry: Like it. Write it occasionally to help workout the creative muscles, but it’s not my form because I don’t like to be too cryptic. My joy comes more from telling a good story, not how fancy my language is, although it is a welcome bonus!

Novel: Love it. Just right!

and then…

Non-fiction: Love to read, but not to write. I’m power-hungry, I need to be able to unleash my wrath on a character when and where I want to.

Realistic Fiction: Isn’t this just non-fiction with fewer limitations? Key word:  limitations. I don’t like them as a writer.

Fiction:  Yes, I am all-powerful and omnipresent! I can make you fly at the wink of my eye! Now that’s fun!

Hence, I am writing a fiction novel. Whenever I write, it feels like I’m putting my feet into cosy slippers. That’s a good thing, because I’m gonna be with this book for a looong time.

Discovering The Form of Writing You Were Meant For

Are you a writer looking for her or his form? Here’s a hint that might help you find it:

What do you secretly love to read?

Chances are, that’s what you love to write.

You might be thinking: “That’s silly. I can’t possibly write that! People will judge me!” Would you rather be ”approved” of and feel lost and frustrated in a from that doesn’t fit you? Or, would you rather be “judged” while you write in the form you love?

It’s your choice. Follow what’s fun!

much love,

Ollin

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7 comments on “Discovering The Form of Writing You Were Meant For

  1. Tami Veldura says:

    I’ve always jumped around to different forms because the work itself tends to dictate what form it should take. I have ideas come to me that need to be paintings, others that need to be comics, some need to be novels, it all depends.

  2. My favourite reading is historical fiction and, yes, that’s what I most enjoy writing. I think it must partly be for the research into history, I love searching out factual details about ancient civilisations, and might have been an archaeologist if I’d been introduced to that in my young life, so writing fiction with factual details suits me perfectly.

  3. Sandy says:

    I am a young writer with what I believe to be a strong and interesting story. It will be a bit controversial. I am just not sure in what sense to write it in. I was happy to see your suggestion as to not caring if “your” writing will be judged. I would really appreciate if you could suggest anything. If you need more details please feel free to email me.

    Sandy.

  4. cmcswain says:

    So interesting tha you write this, because I recently realized that my form is creative nonfiction–specifically essays and interviews. I need poetry to breathe, and I have written an okay poem or two in my day. I use poetic influences to try to infuse my writing with rhythmic elements as would a poet. But poetry isn’t the form that I want to really immerse myself in as a writer (at least not right now anyway). Poetry is more like my way of just enjoying words as a reader. As a writer, I come from a place of reading for understanding, to find out information. So writing nonfiction is magical to me because it gives you a chance to tell a true story and try to develop it in a way that isn’t boring:) It’s definitely true, you have to find your form and be willing to hone it. Thanks for sharing!

  5. You do a great job here (and throughout your blog) of allowing your personal experiences to transition the reader from practice to theory, instead of the other way around. A very unique – and effective – approach!

  6. RD Meyer says:

    I love realistic fiction that stretches the boundaries of realism. 😉

    What I mean by that is that the plot can be fantsatical and out of this world, but the overall story has to make sense. The characters have to react in ways that normal people would so that the reader can see himself in the story as well. The best way I know I’m reading about good characters is when I say, “I can totally see myself doing that.”

  7. […] I enjoy writing but I never thought about my writing style. I know I like to write poetry, journal daily events, write letters, and write about everyday life and motivation. An article by Ollin Morales in his blog, Courage2Create was thought-provoking and encouraged me to think about the why and what of my writing style. Here’s the link to his article: Discovering the Form of Writing You Were Meant For. […]

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