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Creative Writing Vs. Literature

Creative Writing Vs. Literature

Are you torn between pursuing a major in Creative Writing or Literature? It’s time to shed some light on this eternal debate.

In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of these two majors, exploring their curriculum, coursework, and career prospects. Let’s dissect the writing skills developed and the job roles each major offers.

Discover the similarities and differences between Creative Writing and Literature programs, and gain insights into the factors that can help you make an informed decision.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Creative writing and literature are distinct majors that offer unique perspectives on storytelling.
  • Creative writing focuses on crafting original narratives and developing creativity and storytelling skills.
  • Literature majors analyze and interpret literary works, developing critical thinking and research skills.
  • Creative writing graduates often pursue careers as authors, screenwriters, or content creators, while literature graduates can explore opportunities in teaching, publishing, or research.

Overview of the two majors: Creative Writing and Literature

Creative writing and literature are two distinct majors that offer unique perspectives on the world of storytelling.

While both majors focus on studying and analyzing written works, they differ in terms of the skills developed and job prospects.

In creative writing, students develop their skills in crafting original narratives, honing their creativity, and mastering the art of storytelling. They learn to create engaging characters, build immersive worlds, and evoke emotions through their words.

On the other hand, literature majors delve deep into the analysis and interpretation of literary works. They develop critical thinking, research, and communication skills, as well as a deep understanding of literary traditions and cultural contexts.

In terms of job prospects, creative writing graduates often pursue careers as authors, screenwriters, or content creators, while literature graduates can explore opportunities in teaching, publishing, or research.

Overview of the curriculum and requirements of the two majors

The curriculum and requirements for the two majors differ in terms of the courses students need to take and the skills they need to develop.

When it comes to required reading, creative writing majors focus more on contemporary literature and works within their chosen genre. They analyze and interpret texts not only from a literary perspective but also from a writer’s standpoint, looking at the craft and techniques employed by the authors.

On the other hand, literature majors are exposed to a wider range of literary works from different genres, time periods, and cultures. They critically analyze and interpret texts, delving into themes, symbolism, and social contexts.

Both majors contribute to the development of critical thinking skills, but creative writing majors also prioritize the development of their own unique voice and style as writers.

Overview of coursework and assessments in Creative Writing and Literature

To excel in your studies, you’ll need to complete a variety of assignments and assessments that will test your understanding of the different genres and literary techniques. The coursework in Creative Writing and Literature majors is designed to develop your skills in both reading and writing. In literature courses, you will analyze and interpret various texts, while in creative writing courses, you will have the opportunity to express your own ideas and stories through writing. The teaching methods in these disciplines often involve workshops, where you will receive feedback from both your peers and professors. Technology has had a significant impact on creative writing and literature education, providing new tools and platforms for students to engage with the written word. With the rise of online platforms and digital publishing, students now have more opportunities to share their work and connect with a wider audience.

Comparison of Writing Skills Developed

When comparing writing skills developed in both disciplines, you often notice the differences in analysis and interpretation.

In creative writing, the focus is on self-expression, imagination, and storytelling. Writers in this discipline use various techniques like descriptive language, dialogue, and character development to engage readers.

On the other hand, literature emphasizes critical thinking, analysis, and interpretation of texts. It involves examining themes, symbols, and literary devices within a piece of writing. This analytical approach enhances your ability to think critically, analyze complex ideas, and make connections between different texts.

Both creative writing and literature contribute to the development of your writing skills, but in different ways. Creative writing helps you refine your ability to create compelling narratives, while literature cultivates your analytical and interpretive skills, contributing to a deeper understanding of literary works.

Comparison of Career Opportunities and Job Roles in Creative Writing and Literature

Comparing career opportunities and job roles in creative writing and literature, you’ll notice distinct differences in the types of professions and industries that each field can lead to.

In creative writing, the focus is often on developing writing skills for various forms of media, such as novels, poetry, screenplays, and advertising copy. As a creative writer, you have the potential to work as a novelist, poet, screenwriter, or even in the field of advertising and marketing.

On the other hand, literature emphasizes the study and analysis of written works from different time periods and cultures. This field opens up career prospects in academia as a professor or researcher, as well as in publishing, editing, and literary criticism.

While both fields offer job prospects in writing, creative writing tends to be more versatile in terms of the industries and career paths it can lead to.

Comparison of Salary Potential in Creative Writing and Literature

If you’re considering a career in either creative writing or literature, you’ll be interested to know the differences in salary potential between the two fields. While both fields offer opportunities for artistic expression and storytelling, they differ significantly in terms of earning potential and job market.

Here are four key points to consider:

  • Earning Potential: Creative writing careers, such as becoming a novelist or poet, can be financially challenging, with average incomes varying greatly. On the other hand, literature-related careers, such as becoming a professor or literary critic, often offer more stable and higher-paying opportunities.
  • Job Market: Creative writing positions are highly competitive, with limited job openings and a high number of aspiring writers. Literature-related careers, however, have a wider range of opportunities, including teaching positions, publishing roles, and research positions.
  • Advancement Opportunities: In creative writing, success often depends on individual talent and market demand. Literature-related careers offer more potential for advancement through research, publishing scholarly articles, and gaining recognition in the academic community.
  • Industry Stability: The job market for creative writers tends to be more volatile, with fluctuations in demand and trends. Literature-related careers, particularly in academia, offer greater stability due to the enduring importance of literary study.

Considering these factors, it’s essential to weigh the financial prospects and job market conditions when deciding between a career in creative writing or literature.

Similarities between Creative Writing and Literature Programs

As you explore both fields, you’ll notice that creative writing and literature programs share many similarities in terms of the skills and knowledge they provide. In both disciplines, writing techniques are emphasized to develop strong communication skills and the ability to express oneself effectively. Whether you are analyzing a literary text or crafting your own creative piece, critical analysis plays a vital role in both creative writing and literature studies. It allows you to delve deep into the meaning and structure of a text, honing your analytical skills and fostering a deeper understanding of the craft. To illustrate this further, here is a comparison table highlighting the similarities between creative writing and literature programs:

Difference between Creative Writing and Literature programs

When exploring the differences between creative writing and literature programs, you’ll find that the focus in creative writing is on developing your own unique voice and crafting original stories, while in literature programs, the emphasis is on analyzing and interpreting existing literary works.

The difference in teaching methods between these two disciplines has a significant impact on critical thinking. Here are four key points to consider:

  • Creative writing programs encourage students to engage in imaginative thinking and explore their own creativity.
  • Literature programs, on the other hand, foster critical thinking skills by challenging students to analyze and interpret complex texts.
  • Creative writing programs often rely on workshops and peer feedback to enhance writing skills and encourage collaboration.
  • Literature programs typically employ lectures, discussions, and close readings to deepen students’ understanding of literary works and develop critical analysis skills.

Factors to consider when choosing a major in Creative Writing vs. Literature

Considering your personal goals and interests, it’s important to weigh the various factors when deciding between a major in creative writing or literature.

When choosing a major, one important factor to consider is the specific skills and knowledge you wish to acquire. A major in creative writing focuses on honing your writing skills and exploring different creative forms, while a major in literature delves into the study of literary works and the analysis of texts.

Another factor to consider is the career opportunities associated with each major. A major in creative writing can open doors to careers in writing, editing, or publishing, while a major in literature can lead to careers in teaching, research, or literary criticism.

Lastly, the importance of experiential learning cannot be overlooked. Both creative writing and literature programs offer opportunities for hands-on experience through workshops, internships, or literary events, which can enhance your skills and broaden your understanding of the field.

Ultimately, the decision between a major in creative writing or literature should align with your passions, career goals, and desired learning experiences.

In conclusion, when considering a major in Creative Writing versus Literature, it is important to take into account various factors such as personal interests, career goals, and financial prospects.

While both majors offer opportunities for developing writing skills and exploring literary works, they differ in terms of curriculum, career paths, and salary potential.

Interestingly, according to a recent study, it was found that graduates with a degree in Creative Writing have a higher job satisfaction rate compared to those with a degree in Literature. This statistic highlights the value of pursuing a major that aligns with one’s passion and creative abilities.

Ultimately, the choice between Creative Writing and Literature should be based on individual aspirations and the desire to make a meaningful impact in the literary world.

literature and creative writing

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10 Types of Creative Writing (with Examples You’ll Love)

A lot falls under the term ‘creative writing’: poetry, short fiction, plays, novels, personal essays, and songs, to name just a few. By virtue of the creativity that characterizes it, creative writing is an extremely versatile art. So instead of defining what creative writing is , it may be easier to understand what it does by looking at examples that demonstrate the sheer range of styles and genres under its vast umbrella.

To that end, we’ve collected a non-exhaustive list of works across multiple formats that have inspired the writers here at Reedsy. With 20 different works to explore, we hope they will inspire you, too. 

People have been writing creatively for almost as long as we have been able to hold pens. Just think of long-form epic poems like The Odyssey or, later, the Cantar de Mio Cid — some of the earliest recorded writings of their kind. 

Poetry is also a great place to start if you want to dip your own pen into the inkwell of creative writing. It can be as short or long as you want (you don’t have to write an epic of Homeric proportions), encourages you to build your observation skills, and often speaks from a single point of view . 

Here are a few examples:

“Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The ruins of pillars and walls with the broken statue of a man in the center set against a bright blue sky.

This classic poem by Romantic poet Percy Shelley (also known as Mary Shelley’s husband) is all about legacy. What do we leave behind? How will we be remembered? The great king Ozymandias built himself a massive statue, proclaiming his might, but the irony is that his statue doesn’t survive the ravages of time. By framing this poem as told to him by a “traveller from an antique land,” Shelley effectively turns this into a story. Along with the careful use of juxtaposition to create irony, this poem accomplishes a lot in just a few lines. 

“Trying to Raise the Dead” by Dorianne Laux

 A direction. An object. My love, it needs a place to rest. Say anything. I’m listening. I’m ready to believe. Even lies, I don’t care.

Poetry is cherished for its ability to evoke strong emotions from the reader using very few words which is exactly what Dorianne Laux does in “ Trying to Raise the Dead .” With vivid imagery that underscores the painful yearning of the narrator, she transports us to a private nighttime scene as the narrator sneaks away from a party to pray to someone they’ve lost. We ache for their loss and how badly they want their lost loved one to acknowledge them in some way. It’s truly a masterclass on how writing can be used to portray emotions. 

If you find yourself inspired to try out some poetry — and maybe even get it published — check out these poetry layouts that can elevate your verse!

Song Lyrics

Poetry’s closely related cousin, song lyrics are another great way to flex your creative writing muscles. You not only have to find the perfect rhyme scheme but also match it to the rhythm of the music. This can be a great challenge for an experienced poet or the musically inclined. 

To see how music can add something extra to your poetry, check out these two examples:

“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen

 You say I took the name in vain I don't even know the name But if I did, well, really, what's it to ya? There's a blaze of light in every word It doesn't matter which you heard The holy or the broken Hallelujah 

Metaphors are commonplace in almost every kind of creative writing, but will often take center stage in shorter works like poetry and songs. At the slightest mention, they invite the listener to bring their emotional or cultural experience to the piece, allowing the writer to express more with fewer words while also giving it a deeper meaning. If a whole song is couched in metaphor, you might even be able to find multiple meanings to it, like in Leonard Cohen’s “ Hallelujah .” While Cohen’s Biblical references create a song that, on the surface, seems like it’s about a struggle with religion, the ambiguity of the lyrics has allowed it to be seen as a song about a complicated romantic relationship. 

“I Will Follow You into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie

 ​​If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied Illuminate the no's on their vacancy signs If there's no one beside you when your soul embarks Then I'll follow you into the dark

A red neon

You can think of song lyrics as poetry set to music. They manage to do many of the same things their literary counterparts do — including tugging on your heartstrings. Death Cab for Cutie’s incredibly popular indie rock ballad is about the singer’s deep devotion to his lover. While some might find the song a bit too dark and macabre, its melancholy tune and poignant lyrics remind us that love can endure beyond death.

Plays and Screenplays

From the short form of poetry, we move into the world of drama — also known as the play. This form is as old as the poem, stretching back to the works of ancient Greek playwrights like Sophocles, who adapted the myths of their day into dramatic form. The stage play (and the more modern screenplay) gives the words on the page a literal human voice, bringing life to a story and its characters entirely through dialogue. 

Interested to see what that looks like? Take a look at these examples:

All My Sons by Arthur Miller

“I know you're no worse than most men but I thought you were better. I never saw you as a man. I saw you as my father.” 

Creative Writing Examples | Photo of the Old Vic production of All My Sons by Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller acts as a bridge between the classic and the new, creating 20th century tragedies that take place in living rooms and backyard instead of royal courts, so we had to include his breakout hit on this list. Set in the backyard of an all-American family in the summer of 1946, this tragedy manages to communicate family tensions in an unimaginable scale, building up to an intense climax reminiscent of classical drama. 

💡 Read more about Arthur Miller and classical influences in our breakdown of Freytag’s pyramid . 

“Everything is Fine” by Michael Schur ( The Good Place )

“Well, then this system sucks. in a million gets to live in paradise and everyone else is tortured for eternity? Come on! I mean, I wasn't freaking Gandhi, but I was okay. I was a medium person. I should get to spend eternity in a medium place! Like Cincinnati. Everyone who wasn't perfect but wasn't terrible should get to spend eternity in Cincinnati.” 

A screenplay, especially a TV pilot, is like a mini-play, but with the extra job of convincing an audience that they want to watch a hundred more episodes of the show. Blending moral philosophy with comedy, The Good Place is a fun hang-out show set in the afterlife that asks some big questions about what it means to be good. 

It follows Eleanor Shellstrop, an incredibly imperfect woman from Arizona who wakes up in ‘The Good Place’ and realizes that there’s been a cosmic mixup. Determined not to lose her place in paradise, she recruits her “soulmate,” a former ethics professor, to teach her philosophy with the hope that she can learn to be a good person and keep up her charade of being an upstanding citizen. The pilot does a superb job of setting up the stakes, the story, and the characters, while smuggling in deep philosophical ideas.

Personal essays

Our first foray into nonfiction on this list is the personal essay. As its name suggests, these stories are in some way autobiographical — concerned with the author’s life and experiences. But don’t be fooled by the realistic component. These essays can take any shape or form, from comics to diary entries to recipes and anything else you can imagine. Typically zeroing in on a single issue, they allow you to explore your life and prove that the personal can be universal.

Here are a couple of fantastic examples:

“On Selling Your First Novel After 11 Years” by Min Jin Lee (Literary Hub)

There was so much to learn and practice, but I began to see the prose in verse and the verse in prose. Patterns surfaced in poems, stories, and plays. There was music in sentences and paragraphs. I could hear the silences in a sentence. All this schooling was like getting x-ray vision and animal-like hearing. 

Stacks of multicolored hardcover books.

This deeply honest personal essay by Pachinko author Min Jin Lee is an account of her eleven-year struggle to publish her first novel . Like all good writing, it is intensely focused on personal emotional details. While grounded in the specifics of the author's personal journey, it embodies an experience that is absolutely universal: that of difficulty and adversity met by eventual success. 

“A Cyclist on the English Landscape” by Roff Smith (New York Times)

These images, though, aren’t meant to be about me. They’re meant to represent a cyclist on the landscape, anybody — you, perhaps. 

Roff Smith’s gorgeous photo essay for the NYT is a testament to the power of creatively combining visuals with text. Here, photographs of Smith atop a bike are far from simply ornamental. They’re integral to the ruminative mood of the essay, as essential as the writing. Though Smith places his work at the crosscurrents of various aesthetic influences (such as the painter Edward Hopper), what stands out the most in this taciturn, thoughtful piece of writing is his use of the second person to address the reader directly. Suddenly, the writer steps out of the body of the essay and makes eye contact with the reader. The reader is now part of the story as a second character, finally entering the picture.

Short Fiction

The short story is the happy medium of fiction writing. These bite-sized narratives can be devoured in a single sitting and still leave you reeling. Sometimes viewed as a stepping stone to novel writing, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Short story writing is an art all its own. The limited length means every word counts and there’s no better way to see that than with these two examples:

“An MFA Story” by Paul Dalla Rosa (Electric Literature)

At Starbucks, I remembered a reading Zhen had given, a reading organized by the program’s faculty. I had not wanted to go but did. In the bar, he read, "I wrote this in a Starbucks in Shanghai. On the bank of the Huangpu." It wasn’t an aside or introduction. It was two lines of the poem. I was in a Starbucks and I wasn’t writing any poems. I wasn’t writing anything. 

Creative Writing Examples | Photograph of New York City street.

This short story is a delightfully metafictional tale about the struggles of being a writer in New York. From paying the bills to facing criticism in a writing workshop and envying more productive writers, Paul Dalla Rosa’s story is a clever satire of the tribulations involved in the writing profession, and all the contradictions embodied by systemic creativity (as famously laid out in Mark McGurl’s The Program Era ). What’s more, this story is an excellent example of something that often happens in creative writing: a writer casting light on the private thoughts or moments of doubt we don’t admit to or openly talk about. 

“Flowering Walrus” by Scott Skinner (Reedsy)

I tell him they’d been there a month at least, and he looks concerned. He has my tongue on a tissue paper and is gripping its sides with his pointer and thumb. My tongue has never spent much time outside of my mouth, and I imagine it as a walrus basking in the rays of the dental light. My walrus is not well. 

A winner of Reedsy’s weekly Prompts writing contest, ‘ Flowering Walrus ’ is a story that balances the trivial and the serious well. In the pauses between its excellent, natural dialogue , the story manages to scatter the fear and sadness of bad medical news, as the protagonist hides his worries from his wife and daughter. Rich in subtext, these silences grow and resonate with the readers.

Want to give short story writing a go? Give our free course a go!

literature and creative writing


How to Craft a Killer Short Story

From pacing to character development, master the elements of short fiction.

Perhaps the thing that first comes to mind when talking about creative writing, novels are a form of fiction that many people know and love but writers sometimes find intimidating. The good news is that novels are nothing but one word put after another, like any other piece of writing, but expanded and put into a flowing narrative. Piece of cake, right?

To get an idea of the format’s breadth of scope, take a look at these two (very different) satirical novels: 

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

I wished I was back in the convenience store where I was valued as a working member of staff and things weren’t as complicated as this. Once we donned our uniforms, we were all equals regardless of gender, age, or nationality — all simply store workers. 

Creative Writing Examples | Book cover of Convenience Store Woman

Keiko, a thirty-six-year-old convenience store employee, finds comfort and happiness in the strict, uneventful routine of the shop’s daily operations. A funny, satirical, but simultaneously unnerving examination of the social structures we take for granted, Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is deeply original and lingers with the reader long after they’ve put it down.

Erasure by Percival Everett

The hard, gritty truth of the matter is that I hardly ever think about race. Those times when I did think about it a lot I did so because of my guilt for not thinking about it.  

Erasure is a truly accomplished satire of the publishing industry’s tendency to essentialize African American authors and their writing. Everett’s protagonist is a writer whose work doesn’t fit with what publishers expect from him — work that describes the “African American experience” — so he writes a parody novel about life in the ghetto. The publishers go crazy for it and, to the protagonist’s horror, it becomes the next big thing. This sophisticated novel is both ironic and tender, leaving its readers with much food for thought.

Creative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction is pretty broad: it applies to anything that does not claim to be fictional (although the rise of autofiction has definitely blurred the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction). It encompasses everything from personal essays and memoirs to humor writing, and they range in length from blog posts to full-length books. The defining characteristic of this massive genre is that it takes the world or the author’s experience and turns it into a narrative that a reader can follow along with.

Here, we want to focus on novel-length works that dig deep into their respective topics. While very different, these two examples truly show the breadth and depth of possibility of creative nonfiction:

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Men’s bodies litter my family history. The pain of the women they left behind pulls them from the beyond, makes them appear as ghosts. In death, they transcend the circumstances of this place that I love and hate all at once and become supernatural. 

Writer Jesmyn Ward recounts the deaths of five men from her rural Mississippi community in as many years. In her award-winning memoir , she delves into the lives of the friends and family she lost and tries to find some sense among the tragedy. Working backwards across five years, she questions why this had to happen over and over again, and slowly unveils the long history of racism and poverty that rules rural Black communities. Moving and emotionally raw, Men We Reaped is an indictment of a cruel system and the story of a woman's grief and rage as she tries to navigate it.

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker

He believed that wine could reshape someone’s life. That’s why he preferred buying bottles to splurging on sweaters. Sweaters were things. Bottles of wine, said Morgan, “are ways that my humanity will be changed.” 

In this work of immersive journalism , Bianca Bosker leaves behind her life as a tech journalist to explore the world of wine. Becoming a “cork dork” takes her everywhere from New York’s most refined restaurants to science labs while she learns what it takes to be a sommelier and a true wine obsessive. This funny and entertaining trip through the past and present of wine-making and tasting is sure to leave you better informed and wishing you, too, could leave your life behind for one devoted to wine. 

Illustrated Narratives (Comics, graphic novels)

Once relegated to the “funny pages”, the past forty years of comics history have proven it to be a serious medium. Comics have transformed from the early days of Jack Kirby’s superheroes into a medium where almost every genre is represented. Humorous one-shots in the Sunday papers stand alongside illustrated memoirs, horror, fantasy, and just about anything else you can imagine. This type of visual storytelling lets the writer and artist get creative with perspective, tone, and so much more. For two very different, though equally entertaining, examples, check these out:

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

"Life is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine and valleys of frustration and failure." 

A Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. A little blond boy Calvin makes multiple silly faces in school photos. In the last panel, his father says, "That's our son. *Sigh*" His mother then says, "The pictures will remind of more than we want to remember."

This beloved comic strip follows Calvin, a rambunctious six-year-old boy, and his stuffed tiger/imaginary friend, Hobbes. They get into all kinds of hijinks at school and at home, and muse on the world in the way only a six-year-old and an anthropomorphic tiger can. As laugh-out-loud funny as it is, Calvin & Hobbes ’ popularity persists as much for its whimsy as its use of humor to comment on life, childhood, adulthood, and everything in between. 

From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell 

"I shall tell you where we are. We're in the most extreme and utter region of the human mind. A dim, subconscious underworld. A radiant abyss where men meet themselves. Hell, Netley. We're in Hell." 

Comics aren't just the realm of superheroes and one-joke strips, as Alan Moore proves in this serialized graphic novel released between 1989 and 1998. A meticulously researched alternative history of Victorian London’s Ripper killings, this macabre story pulls no punches. Fact and fiction blend into a world where the Royal Family is involved in a dark conspiracy and Freemasons lurk on the sidelines. It’s a surreal mad-cap adventure that’s unsettling in the best way possible. 

Video Games and RPGs

Probably the least expected entry on this list, we thought that video games and RPGs also deserved a mention — and some well-earned recognition for the intricate storytelling that goes into creating them. 

Essentially gamified adventure stories, without attention to plot, characters, and a narrative arc, these games would lose a lot of their charm, so let’s look at two examples where the creative writing really shines through: 

80 Days by inkle studios

"It was a triumph of invention over nature, and will almost certainly disappear into the dust once more in the next fifty years." 

A video game screenshot of 80 days. In the center is a city with mechanical legs. It's titled "The Moving City." In the lower right hand corner is a profile of man with a speech balloon that says, "A starched collar, very good indeed."

Named Time Magazine ’s game of the year in 2014, this narrative adventure is based on Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. The player is cast as the novel’s narrator, Passpartout, and tasked with circumnavigating the globe in service of their employer, Phileas Fogg. Set in an alternate steampunk Victorian era, the game uses its globe-trotting to comment on the colonialist fantasies inherent in the original novel and its time period. On a storytelling level, the choose-your-own-adventure style means no two players’ journeys will be the same. This innovative approach to a classic novel shows the potential of video games as a storytelling medium, truly making the player part of the story. 

What Remains of Edith Finch by Giant Sparrow

"If we lived forever, maybe we'd have time to understand things. But as it is, I think the best we can do is try to open our eyes, and appreciate how strange and brief all of this is." 

This video game casts the player as 17-year-old Edith Finch. Returning to her family’s home on an island in the Pacific northwest, Edith explores the vast house and tries to figure out why she’s the only one of her family left alive. The story of each family member is revealed as you make your way through the house, slowly unpacking the tragic fate of the Finches. Eerie and immersive, this first-person exploration game uses the medium to tell a series of truly unique tales. 

Fun and breezy on the surface, humor is often recognized as one of the trickiest forms of creative writing. After all, while you can see the artistic value in a piece of prose that you don’t necessarily enjoy, if a joke isn’t funny, you could say that it’s objectively failed.

With that said, it’s far from an impossible task, and many have succeeded in bringing smiles to their readers’ faces through their writing. Here are two examples:

‘How You Hope Your Extended Family Will React When You Explain Your Job to Them’ by Mike Lacher (McSweeney’s Internet Tendency)

“Is it true you don’t have desks?” your grandmother will ask. You will nod again and crack open a can of Country Time Lemonade. “My stars,” she will say, “it must be so wonderful to not have a traditional office and instead share a bistro-esque coworking space.” 

An open plan office seen from a bird's eye view. There are multiple strands of Edison lights hanging from the ceiling. At long light wooden tables multiple people sit working at computers, many of them wearing headphones.

Satire and parody make up a whole subgenre of creative writing, and websites like McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and The Onion consistently hit the mark with their parodies of magazine publishing and news media. This particular example finds humor in the divide between traditional family expectations and contemporary, ‘trendy’ work cultures. Playing on the inherent silliness of today’s tech-forward middle-class jobs, this witty piece imagines a scenario where the writer’s family fully understands what they do — and are enthralled to hear more. “‘Now is it true,’ your uncle will whisper, ‘that you’ve got a potential investment from one of the founders of I Can Haz Cheezburger?’”

‘Not a Foodie’ by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell (Electric Literature)

I’m not a foodie, I never have been, and I know, in my heart, I never will be. 

Highlighting what she sees as an unbearable social obsession with food , in this comic Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell takes a hilarious stand against the importance of food. From the writer’s courageous thesis (“I think there are more exciting things to talk about, and focus on in life, than what’s for dinner”) to the amusing appearance of family members and the narrator’s partner, ‘Not a Foodie’ demonstrates that even a seemingly mundane pet peeve can be approached creatively — and even reveal something profound about life.

We hope this list inspires you with your own writing. If there’s one thing you take away from this post, let it be that there is no limit to what you can write about or how you can write about it. 

In the next part of this guide, we'll drill down into the fascinating world of creative nonfiction.

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Literature, Creative Writing, & Literary Criticism: Home

This guide will help you find British, American, and English-language literary texts, creative writing resources, and literary criticism on authors or literary works in books, reference book entries, and journal articles available from the OSU Library.


 This guide covers finding literature in English (poetry, drama, and fiction)/creative writing resources and literary criticism resources at the OSU Library, primarily British, American, and other English-language literatures, though many of the resources can be used to research foreign language literatures as well. It also covers interdisciplinary arts and humanities research, mainly with a literary focus.

For research help and information on Library resources for the other programs offered by the OSU English Department (Linguistics/TESL, Rhetoric & Professional Writing, and Screen Studies) please consult the tabs on the general English Department guide.

For information on finding foreign language texts, literature, and literary criticism in languages other than English, please consult the Languages and Literatures research guide.

For an overview of the historical primary text/e-book database collections at the OSU Library, see the Historical E-Books/Digital Collections research guide.

Overview on Literary Criticism

Literary criticism, sometimes called "secondary criticism" or "secondary texts," is interpretation or commentary on a literary author (poet, novelist, playwright, etc.) or on his or her literary works, what are usually called "primary texts."  Criticism is found in books, essays in book collections or reference books (encyclopedias or guides), and articles in scholarly journals.

Book reviews, in contrast, are generally short evaluative articles about literary works that come out after books are first published; they are usually brief assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of the book, but are not detailed interpretive discussions.  Journals publish book reviews of secondary scholarly books. For help finding book reviews, see the  Finding Book Reviews guide.

To find criticism on an author/literary work, you should first determine if the author is a living author and if the author is a major writer (i.e., who has had much criticism written about his or her works).  Some will not have full articles of literary criticism about their works, only brief book reviews (which generally come out when the book is first published). 

Well-known authors from literary periods before the twentieth century are more likely to be covered in books, book essays, and journal articles, though more contemporary authors or lesser-known authors will have more criticism about their works in journal articles.  Some of these sources will be available electronically in Library databases.  If you do not know much about the author, start with an entry about the author one of the reference books to give you a biography and general overview of their literary work, and the period in which they wrote/are writing.

Use the tabs above for detailed information on searching for literary criticism from books, reference books, and journal articles.

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Free online English Literature / Creative Writing courses

Creative writing and critical reading

Creative writing and critical reading

This free course, Creative writing and critical reading, explores the importance of reading as part of a creative writer’s development at the postgraduate level. You will gain inspiration and ideas from examining other writers’ methods, as well as enhancing your critical reading skills. Examples will cover the genres of fiction, creative ...

Free course

Level: 3 Advanced

Writing what you know

Writing what you know

Do you want to improve your descriptive writing? This free course, Writing what you know, will help you to develop your perception of the world about you and enable you to see the familiar things in everyday life in a new light. You will also learn how authors use their own personal histories to form the basis of their work.

Level: 1 Introductory

Start writing fiction

Start writing fiction

Have you always wanted to write, but never quite had the courage to start? This free course, Start writing fiction, will give you an insight into how authors create their characters and settings. You will also be able to look at the different genres for fiction.

Exploring books for children: words and pictures

Exploring books for children: words and pictures

Many people have fond memories of the stories they encountered in childhood, perhaps especially of those wonderful picture books and illustrated tales which fired our young imaginations and transported us to magical worlds. To an adult’s eye, some picture books may seem remarkably simple, even oversimplified. However, in this free course, ...

Level: 2 Intermediate

Reading Shakespeare's As You Like It

Reading Shakespeare's As You Like It

Do you enjoy watching Shakespeare's plays and like the idea of finding out more about them? This free course, Reading Shakespeare's As You Like It, will guide you through some of the most important speeches and scenes from one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies.

Icarus: entering the world of myth

Icarus: entering the world of myth

This free course, Icarus: entering the world of myth, will introduce you to one of the best-known myths from classical antiquity and its various re-tellings in later periods. You will begin by examining how the Icarus story connects with a number of other ancient myths, such as that of Theseus and the Minotaur. You will then be guided through an...

Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners

Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners

This free course concentrates on Sam Selvon's twentieth-century novel, The Lonely Londoners. It considers the depiction of migration in the text as well as Selvon's treatment of memory as a vital part of the migrant's experience.

Introducing Virgil’s Aeneid

Introducing Virgil’s Aeneid

This free course offers an introduction to the Aeneid. Virgil’s Latin epic, written in the 1st century BCE, tells the story of the Trojan hero Aeneas and his journey to Italy, where he would become the ancestor of the Romans. Here, you will focus on the characterisation of this legendary hero, and learn why he was so important to the Romans of ...

Exploring Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd

Exploring Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd

This free course, Exploring Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd, is designed to tell you something about Hardy's background, and to introduce you to the pleasures of reading a nineteenth-century novel. Why do we believe in fictional characters and care about what happens to them? You will discover some of the techniques that Hardy ...

John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi

John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi

This free course, John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi, concentrates on Acts 1 and 2 of John Webster's Renaissance tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi. It focuses on the representation of marriage for love and the social conflicts to which it gives rise. The course is designed to hone your skills of textual analysis.

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

What does Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus tell us about the author and the time at which the play was written? This free course, Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, will help you to discover the intricacies of the play and recognise how a knowledge of the historical and political background of the time can lead to a very different ...

Approaching poetry

Approaching poetry

Do you want to get more out of your reading of poetry? This free course, Approaching poetry, is designed to develop the analytical skills you need for a more in-depth study of literary texts. You will learn about rhythm, alliteration, rhyme, poetic inversion, voice and line lengths and endings. You will examine poems that do not rhyme and learn ...

Approaching prose fiction

Approaching prose fiction

Do you want to get more out of your reading? This free course, Approaching prose fiction, is designed to develop the analytical skills you need for a more in-depth study of literary texts. You will learn about narrative events and perspectives, the setting of novels, types of characterisation and genre.

Approaching plays

Approaching plays

Do you want to get more out of drama? This free course, Approaching plays, is designed to develop the analytical skills you need for a more in-depth study of literary plays. You will learn about dialogue, stage directions, blank verse, dramatic structure and conventions and aspects of performance.

Approaching literature: reading Great Expectations

Approaching literature: reading Great Expectations

This free course, Approaching literature: reading Great Expectations, considers some of the different ways of reading Great Expectations, based on the type of genre the book belongs to. This is one of the most familiar and fundamental ways of approaching literary texts. The novel broadens the scope of study of a realist novel, in both literary ...

The poetry of Sorley MacLean

The poetry of Sorley MacLean

Sorley MacLean (1911-1996) is regarded as one of the greatest Scottish poets of the twentieth century. This free course, The poetry of Sorley MacLean, will introduce you to his poetry and give you an insight into the cultural, historical and political contexts that inform his work. MacLean wrote in Gaelic and the importance of the language to ...

Exploring Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts

Exploring Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts

This free course introduces Virginia Woolf’s last novel, Between the Acts (1941), with the aim of understanding how she writes about time, memory, and ideas about identity. It also considers why Woolf’s fiction is often considered difficult. Selected extracts from her essays on writing help to clarify some of these perceived difficulties, ...

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