My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Random Creative Writing Terms Beginning With the Letter I

Random terms beginning with H


Imagination- Shit you need, yo.  This is one of those parts of creative writing that is very, very hard to teach.  You can master written English. You can learn craft.  You can do exercises to tap into creativity.  But it's almost impossible to teach someone to develop the part of their brain that thinks: "I wonder what would happen if baby dragon zombies attacked inner city Okland and got into a turf war with the local gang..."  Imagination is more of a mode of thought that most people are taught to suppress for most of their lives.    It goes beyond creativity and into realms of pure speculation.  The good news is, it can be improved just by taking it out and playing with it as often as possible (which isn't as dirty as it sounds).  It may be hard to teach, but it is relatively easy to cultivate.

Image-  In writing (and literary analysis) an image is more than just a mental picture.  It is a sensory detail from any of the five senses.  Concrete imagery is an extremely important aspect of good craft.  If you can, get people to spell this word out loud, and then say "lightbulb" as enthusiastically as they can. It's a great trick at parties!

Inciting Incidents-  Sometimes called "trigger events" or even "plot bombs" by those who give fewer fucks--flying or otherwise--about "proper" terminology.  Pixar has just about the best bit of advice regarding these: they should only be used to get characters into trouble--never to get them out of it.  (The latter is called Deus Ex Machina, and is a big writerly no no.)  Good writing has very few inciting incidents and mostly involves character's reactions to the incidents.  Frequently in short stories and often in novels, the inciting incident occurs prior to the action of the story itself.

Invective- An insult.  A highly critical use of language.  It is absolutely intended to be hurtful.  90% of any comments section on the internet.  The way I talk about Harold Bloom.

Irony- A commonly misunderstood aspect of literature and writing since it has multiple meanings that are very different from each other and it doesn't actually just mean any T-shirt that someone finds funny, and it sure as holy flaming ostrich shit isn't "a black fly in your Chardonnay."

Verbal Irony- When the intended meaning is opposite of the literal meaning.  Like when I told you that your My Little Pony tie was "hella" appropriate for the interview you were about to have for senior editor of Maxim magazine, and that I was sure that your resume being in Comic Sans was going to win you points.  This irony is nestled between the lands of satire and sarcasm, and though it shares a thick  ribbon of contested border with each, it needn't be either.

Situational Irony- When an intended result is the opposite of the actual result.  So like, every Wiley Coyote cartoon ever.  Writers who think they are going to make money writing creatively, are often in for some bitter irony.  You see this a lot in speculative fiction with prophecies or predictions where it's the actions of the protagonist that end up causing the event they showed up to try to prevent.  Some h8ers don't consider this irony.  H8ers gonna h8.

Tragic Irony- This is a varient of situational irony in which the tragedy of the situation is well known.  Greek plays often have no complication or ambiguity of outcome.  They are a 90 minute train wreck towards an inevitable conclusion.  So if any truly asshole characters in any Sophocles play (ever) says "we can deal with this tomorrow," it's tragic irony because they'll be extra dead with dead sauce by then.

Dramatic Irony- The disparity of a character reaction when they do not have information which the audience does.  Like if the audience knows that the eyeball thief is hiding in the shadows next to someone and they say "See you tomorrow!" that is totally dramatic irony--in addition to being a death squad worthy pun.  Pretty much everything Shakespeare ever wrote relied heavily on dramatic irony.

Cosmic Irony- The difference between what a person wants and what the universe will provide.  Summed up succinctly by the philosopher McJagger when he said "You can't always get what you want."  It is also the difference between an expected outcome and the real outcome, though often this is simply improbable or unfortunate and not so much ironic.  This is the most bitterly disputed of all the ironies, and the question of it even being irony is debated with human-like fervor for labels.  Which is...well, somewhat ironic.  And that is also ironic.

Ivory Tower- The ivory tower is a metaphor for how high and cloistered higher education can be, but we must also remember that there's a reason they chose a giant white phallic symbol in an institution primarily of white males. Often accused of low levels of pragmatism to anyone who doesn't wear fuzzy sweaters and think everything is "terribly interesting."  In creative writing MFA (and now PhD) writing programs this effect is magnified, mainstream authors are increasingly disdained, and the entire set up of the MFA program resembles a pyramid scheme. (And even if it isn't, just the fact that such a comparison can be drawn is....."problematic.") One author after another that lit snobs and critics hated in their day gets canonized and the ivory tower just scratches its head and wonders why the writers the plebs find delightful keep being canonized (until the next generation comes along and takes it as self evident, of course). They are notorious for not limiting themselves to telling writers how to write better, but literally telling them WHAT they can write that "counts." All while ignoring the situational irony of their prejudice. Education is awesome, but be wary.

Creative Writing Terms Beginning With the Letter J


  1. Replies
    1. Awesome! Many more coming in the next few months.

  2. Not as funny as some of your others.

  3. Awesome post. Now I have to go look at the rest of them.