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How To Use Creative Writing for Literary Analysis

    how to use creative writing for literary analysis

    Are you students struggling with literary analysis? Creative writing makes for engaging and effective literary analysis. Learn how to use creative writing for literary analysis and favorite activities to try.

    Have you ever considered creative writing for literary analysis? If not, let this be a sign…

    Are you tired of the same old literature writing responses? Between the classic short answers and five-paragraph essays, responding to literature with writing can get stale for teachers and students alike. However, did you know you can use creative writing for literary analysis?

    I know, I know. We’re used to formal literary analysis and creative writing existing in two worlds—each with unique characteristics and benefits. However, bringing these two worlds together can bridge the gap between reluctant learners and engaging literary analysis.

    Is it an Effective and Engaging Approach?

    Of course, more traditional and analytic writing serves its purpose (I’m not here to argue otherwise). However, I am here to say that utilizing analytical thinking with creative writing is the key to effective engagement, deeper comprehension, and deeper analysis of literature overall. It’s all about balance, my friend.

    While creative writing has been labeled as the less “rigorous” option in the past, teachers are starting to realize that’s not necessarily the case. Instead, it simply requires a different kind of thinking. Creative writing for literary analysis requires a deep understanding of the text, from the plot and themes to the characters and conflicts.

    After all, literary analysis is about more than summarizing a text. Literary analysis is about digging deeper and adding new insights and perspectives. It’s about reading between the lines to understand what the author wrote and what it means. How it added to the bigger picture. What it is implying about society in general. Sure, students can express these thoughts in traditional literary analysis. However, they can engage in similar thinking and achieve similar results by exploring creating writing—and they might have a bit of fun while doing it too. (Gasp!)

    What are the Benefits of Creative Writing for Literary Analysis?

    There are several benefits to incorporating creative writing in the classroom in general. However, some benefits stand out specifically for literary analysis. These benefits are especially true for struggling and reluctant readers and writers:

    1. It Bends Rules. Creative writing as a form of literary analysis permits students to break free from the rigid writing structures they are often taught to respond with. This new approach allows students who struggle with traditional analytical writing to express and clarify their thoughts in a new way.
    1. It Builds Bridges. Creative writing can bridge the gap between a reader and the writing on the page. When students dread reading a text and the writing assignments that follow, they’re likely to put up a barrier. Rather than actively engaging with the text, reading between the lines, and considering broader implications, they remain distant. They read because they “have to” or read to find the answers they assume you are looking for. Providing more creative ways for students to engage with—and analyze—a text opens their eyes to new ways of thinking and new levels of understanding.
    1. It Broadens Perspective. When students write a more traditional literary analysis, they often take on the role of a student simply writing another paper. It can become routine and almost robotic. Once they memorize the formula, they simply replicate it again and again. However, plenty of creative writing activities allow students to broaden their perspective of the text, its characters, and the world as a whole.

    Creative Writing Activities for Literary Analysis

    I’m excited to share my favorite (and most engaging and effective) creative writing assignments for literary analysis. Feel free to use them as shorter assignments as you read to encourage students to think about and interact with a text on a deeper level. Or, if you’re really looking to shake things up, expand one of the activities below to be a creative analysis summative assessment.

    1. Write Diary Entries and Character Journals

    I love getting students to think about characterization by putting themselves in the character’s shoes. A great way to do this is by writing diary entries or journals from that character’s perspective. This more reflective and intimate writing style opens the door for students to tap into a deeper emotional connection than traditional writing allows. Therefore, students must really consider not just who a character is but why they say or act as they do. However, there is also some room for students to fill in the blanks based on what they do know. That’s exactly why this creative writing activity makes for great character analysis.

    While you can assign students a one-off entry as a form of analysis, I like to ask students to track certain characters over a text. Then, they can compile a handful of entries that really dive into their understanding of a character’s thoughts, actions, and emotions.

    2. Explore a Different Perspective

    For this creative writing activity, students take an entire story (or part of a longer novel) and write it from a different perspective. If the text is written in 3rd person, they can choose a first-person narrator. If it’s already written in first-person, it’s a fun challenge to consider a story from a secondary character’s point of view.

    Not only does this get students thinking critically about point of view and how it can control a story, but it also encourages them to dig deeper into characters they may otherwise overlook. Students must shift their perspective from being observant outsiders to really diving into the mind of a character.

    3. Write a News Article or Thematic Newspaper

    Writing a news article or thematic newspaper checks so many boxes.  It requires critical thought, exercises creative writing, and teachers about real-world applications for writing. News stories can recap events from the plot, emphasize a theme, and interview characters—or, better yet, all three! Therefore, students must consider the most important aspects of the event that would be covered in the story. What details from the event would make the cut? Who would a journalist ask for quotes? What would that character have to say? It’s always fun to see what details stick out to various students. In fact, different students might position articles about similar topics in completely different ways!

    Looking to really dive into this activity? Teach a mini lesson on journalism and closely analyze the features of journalistic writing. Therefore, you are engaging students in fiction and nonfiction at the same time.

    4. Add a Scene.

    Have you ever read a book but felt like something was missing? Like an extra chapter was needed to make it feel complete? With this activity, students get to fill in the blanks! Students write a scene to add to an existing novel, expanding upon a moment of their choice. Sometimes this is the end of a novel if they aren’t happy with the ending. Other times it’s a middle scene that they want to explore deeper. Some might even opt to add a little backstory in the beginning. Whatever they choose, the intent is the same: provide an additional scene that further explores a character, expands themes, explains a plot point, or justifies an action. 

    The challenge with having students add a scene is writing it in a way that fits the flow of the novel. Therefore, it is the perfect creative writing assignment for analyzing author’s craft.

    5. Craft a Blog Posts

    Writing a blog post might not sound super creative at first. However, compared to traditional literature analysis, there’s a lot more freedom with how to go about writing a blog. I encourage you to encourage them to get creative here. Rather than following the strict rules and guidelines of a more traditional analysis piece, have students keep a more casual blog. These blogs can track their ongoing thoughts regarding a specific character, theme, or overall plot.  

    As a bonus, students can go back into their blogs to find ideas to expand upon for a more formal writing assignment once the novel is finished. Rather than staring at a blank page as they consider what to write, they will have pages of organic flowing thoughts to sort through and pull from. After all, by giving students more freedom around how they write, they can focus more on what they write.

    More Creative Writing Activities for Literary Analysis

    • Explore Poetry. Writing poetry is a great way to explore everything from themes and characters to emotions and symbolism. You’d be surprised how much students can say in so few words! If you’re looking to really get students interacting with a text, you can have them write a found poem from the book itself. Just make sure they are capturing a theme, symbol, emotion, characterization, or another literary element rather than simply summarizing the events on a page.
    • Take a Character Out of Context. Challenge students to place a character from a text in a new context—then write about it! Students love taking characters and putting them into the modern world, but the options are endless. In what time or setting would the student put the character? What would they see? What would they do? Think? Say? Who would they meet? How would they interact? This creative writing exercise is a fun way to engage students in character analysis.
    • Craft a Social Media Post. This is one of my favorite “quick” creative writing activities. After reading a chapter or following an important event, ask students to write a tweet or create an Instagram post from a character’s perspective. Then, let them share their responses with one another. You might even consider having a bulletin board “feed” where students can hang their posts over the course of the book.  This is a quick and fun way to get students to put themselves in the shoes of different characters at any point throughout a text.

    Even More Creative Activities for Literary Analysis

    The next two creative activities may involve less creative writing, but they certainly require students to think outside the box.

    Create a Novel, Character, or Thematic Track List

    Music is a fantastic way for students to connect with a text. Ask students to find connections between the stories they listen to and the stories they read. Have them compile a tracklist of songs that best express their analysis and write short explanations justify their connections.

    (After all, don’t songs tell a story in their own way?) The result? A track list of beautiful ah-ha moments that dive deeper into analysis than one might think initially.

    Compile a One-Pager Analysis

    This approach to analysis relies on various creative formats, including writing. However, students may also choose to express their thoughts using meaningful quotes, symbolic art or images, analysis, connections, and more. Regardless, as the name implies, students are limited to expressing their analysis on one page. Therefore, students must think deeply about the text before carefully planning and producing their one-pager analysis.

    Is Creative Writing an Effective Approach to Literary Analysis?

    The verdict is in…

    Yes. 1,000x yes.

    While some may argue creative writing is “fluffy,” that couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, creative writing offers students a new way to think about and interact with a text.  It encourages students to express their learning in new ways, challenging them to think outside the box.

    Does the more traditional literary analysis have a place? Absolutely. There are times when a classic five-paragraph essay is the right move. However, we mustn’t fall into a rut and routine of teaching one way of expressing one’s thoughts. Besides, those students who moan and groan at yet another traditional writing assignment may just thrive when allowed to get creative.

    I hope this post serves as an invitation and inspiration for you as you consider ways to engage your students with literature through creative writing. If you have any creative writing ideas that can be used for literary analysis, I’d love for you to share them in the comments below!

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