The Four Elements A Creative Writer Must Have

Some proclaim that writers descend into alternate realities, only returning once perfection has been seized. Others swear that they have seen scriveners summon Mephistopheles by tossing bone dice across blank pages. These myths are reinforced by the writer’s enigmatic ability to disappear for hours and days on end, returning with a work of creativity that has been seemingly gathered from the caliginous reaches of inner-space.

Admittedly, I enjoy the status of selcouth literati as I’m sure doctors and astronauts delight in the reverence of their chosen professions, yet as these careers take years of arduous training with specialized tools, so must creative writers learn to wield the tools of their craft. These basic tools, which serve as the implements for developing effective works, are placement, dynamism, conflict, and structure.

Placement entails thesensationsof sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch that form mental movies within the reader’s mind. As with dreams, which form images through the mind’s eye, writers must guide the reader’s sensorium.

Dynamism is the energy that keeps a reader’s attention. By using tight plot points, lively syntax, rounded characters, leaps of intuition, and paradigm shifts, the reader feels the momentum and is compelled to continue delving into the writer’s mind. The use of energetic words at the beginning and end of sentences reflect tempo, interest, and anticipation.

Conflict is the struggle and underlying tension that urges the reader to ask what will happen next. In all good writing, readers have something to wonder about. This juxtaposition of energy creates intrigue, though not confusion. In order to keep the reader from adjusting to the level of conflict, the intensities are varied in accordance with the placement. Dynamism is the result of modulatedconflict.

Structures exist in writing as in nature. Creative writing is layered upon subtle structures that, while unobtrusive, guide the reader through various insights. By building upon specific images, ideas, and words, the reader while conceptualize what the writer finds important while at the same time coming to conclusions of their own. It is through structure that a work takes on meaning.

These four basic elements are apparent in different types of writing. Those who refine their usage of these tools are capable of crafting works of praiseworthy depth and complexity.    

S.L. Anderson


Hot Off The Presses, Author A. B. Harms’ New Book: Bewildered

Hello and thank you for having me as a guest, Southern Tablet! I’m A. B. Harms, author of Bewildered, my debut novel and the first in the Bewilderness Tales series. I’m so excited to introduce myself and the world where Bewildered takes place: Bewilderness!

Bewildered is a middle-grade adventure tale. If you like Alice in Wonderland, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, or the legendary Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, then you may enjoy Bewildered too!
Bewildered cover with seal

Our story starts when way-too-serious-and-a-bit-OCD, Prudence Parks, get the news that her father has died in a sandstorm. Prudence is shocked. Her father? Gone. Her schedule? A complete disaster. And Prudence is lost without them. Horrible, right? Without a moment’s debate, her nanny shuttles her away to an orphanage—lucky for us, she doesn’t make it. Instead, while at the train station, she winds up boarding a magical train and embarks upon a wild adventure.

Rather than take the road most traveled, our unwilling hero takes the window seat—which she falls out of—and gets to see more of Bewilderness than your typical tourist. In fact, one must wonder if perhaps she sees more than she’s supposed to—more than even most Bewilderish creatures know about.

She tumbles through the dark abyss of The Nothingness, meets a mangy crew of sand-ship pirates in The Corridor, and—just in the nick of time—escapes to Bewilderness proper where she can finally take the train back home… right?


Bewilderness has more in store for her than a classic “I-took-a-wrong-turn-in-Albuquerque ” experience. She’s chased, scrutinized, and tossed in a dungeon, all for claiming to be human—but the Match King has other plans. He needs Prudence’s help to do what he could never manage—find the Paper Heart. If she finds it, he’ll help her get home. But is the Match King a simple treasure hunter, or are his ambitions more sinister?

Bewilderness is a place where dreams come true, literally—it’s a world created from human imagination, but not everyone is a happy resident. The reclusive Match King stows away in his iron-clad castle and cryptically explains why he needs Prudence’s help. Eventually we find out what he really wants—to end Bewilderness’ existence altogether.

Bewilderness is a land of constant change, where the map shifts and mountains can hike up their foothills and dance away. It’s where hidden passages hide ancient treasure, a place where anything can, and does, happen.  But there is more to Bewilderness than we see in this story…places where things from nightmares exist, but that is a place we will visit in a future Bewilderness Tale. For now, we will busy ourselves with the Key Lime Sea’s creamy waters, outwit the UnNavigatable Forest’s beastly tricks, and seek refuge inside The Fabrikator’s Wandering Shack when things become too much.

Join me on a fantastic adventure in BEWILDERED, A Bewilderness Tale, Book One—AVAILABLE NOW in eBook and print!

ABHarms Author Photo

-A.B. Harms

For those dedicated readers, click here to win a copy of Amanda’s new book.
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About the Author

A. B. Harms was born a writer. From a young age, she made her own picture books with crayons and a stapler. As a teenager, she won essay contests. Yet, when she began her career, being an author was the last thing she considered. Finally, after working every job imaginable from waitress to social worker and earning her degree in Psychology, she realized what she was always meant to do–write! A. B. is from Missouri, has gone around the world and back again, and now lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family, a pet sloth, who resembles a Great Dane, and a black cat, who moonlights as an assassin. No matter where she hangs her hat, she finds herself at home down the rabbit hole.

Romance Novel, Shromance Novel

When I was thirteen, I visited my great-aunt Audma for a long three-day weekend.  We called her Skippy, and I can still see her sitting in her Victorian chair chain smoking, her head surrounded by a cloud of smoke, as if she were the feature in a haunted stage set. She was so skinny that she looked like a skeleton with a head full of hair.

She was an odd bird.  And without fail, she would always ask my sister and I to pull up our shirts show her our bellies, to which she would pronounce one of two things: we’d gained weight and our britches were too tight, or we’d lost weight since she’d last seen us and we were looking unhealthy.  Regardless of her declaration, she’d then offer us ham and ice cream saying, “You need to eat SOMEthing for lunch, you’ll starve,” and refused to take no for an answer.

I was always bored out of my mind on these visits.  She lived on an isolated hill in West Virginia and there was nothing to do but read. After walking up to the family cemetery, we’d have another 48 hours of straight boredom.

And then I discovered her room full of romance novels. It was a trove.  She had shelves and shelves, hundreds of books. And the covers…

Wind-swept. Writhing. Disheveled. Muscular. Epic. Airbrushed.

Fantastic!!! For the next two days I did nothing but skim every book I could find to all the steamy sections.  Certain words jumped out and I knew I was getting close – vexation, tension, indignance, resentment, hatred, displeasure.   When  the femalprotagonist was good and angry, in the next scene she suddenly became quite witting.

I as I tore through twenty-five or thirty books that weekend, I began to understand the pull of the romance novel for someone who has not lived, or who is stagnant.   And somehow I knew, without ever before having read one, that the scenes in between the steamy ones were mostly wasted words.

After my binge I was pretty disgusted.  I was only thirteen remember. I walked away having learned one thing.

I knew I needed to live my life before I would have anything worth writing.  I didn’t pick up a pen again and attempt to write till about 17 years later – after I’d had heart break, different careers, and multiple lessons learned. 

 The syrupy stories of those novels didn’t satisfy me nor did they impress me.  Real life is so much better! 

(This is not a rant about people who write legitimate sex scenes about real people with real motivations and reactions.)

Romance novels serve their purpose, but it is not great literature. I suppose if you are looking to make money (aren’t we all) then by all means, put those characters in a field beset by a flood waters in the middle of a lightening storm with no chance of survival. What will happen? Hey, it’s a romance novel. The obvious decision is to make love.

But if you want to be taken seriously as an author, write about your life. It may contain romance, but it’s the difference between a Disney movie and Casablanca.

– Angel

Lady J

The longer she sat there the more this man morphed into a version of her father, as many older men have seemed to do since he passed away.  There was something about the combination of the smell coming from her shirt, his watching eyes, the coziness of the fire, her intake of that sweet devil of a drink and the new reality of life without a dad.  All she wanted was for this stranger to give her a big hug, hold her tight and tell her it would all be okay.  She wanted to close her eyes and pretend it was her dad sitting right there in front of her.  There was no way to stop the tears.

“Ma’am I’m sorry.”

“No, no, it’s okay.  It’s not you.  Well, it is, but it’s not your fault.  It’s just so sad what you said.  And to think of watching another that reminds you of a loved one who died, well, is very hard, or so I’m learning.”

“Oh I didn’t mean to stir anything up.  Honestly I didn’t even realize I was watching you so much.  It was like I was somewhere else.  I’m Marshall by the way.  And really I’m sorry.”

“Nice to meet you Marshall.  I think.  This is a tough start.  No, I’m sorry, that’s not fair.  I can tell you didn’t mean anything by it all.  Really it’s me.  I came here to get away and everything followed.”

“Shall I just call you Ma’am?”

“Oh goodness I’m sorry.  Really I’m out of sorts aren’t I.  I’m Junie, but you can call me Ma’am if you like.’

They both laughed, finally.  Marshall’s seemed to start in his belly and tremble upwards whereas Junie snorted like her mother, which came with an embarrassing side effect after crying.  The mood had been so uncertain it was hard to tell which way things would go, but this only heightened the laughter and eased them both.


“This is terribly embarrassing, but thank you.  I feel like little a girl with a snotty nose.”

“Well it happens Junie.  I mean Ma’am Junie.  Or should it be Junie Ma’am?  Or, I know, how about Lady J?”

“Lady J?  Hmmm.  I kind of like that.  Yes, Mister Marshall, I’ll take Lady J.”

“So, if you don’t mind me asking, what brings you here?  Obviously writing, and you don’t have to tell me what you’re writing about as it’s clear it’s very personal, but, why a writer’s retreat?  Have you been to one before?”

“No it’s okay, I’ll tell you what I’m writing about because it’s easy…I don’t know.  Well I do, but I don’t.  I came here with one idea but that seems to be changing.  I have a title.  But that’s about it.  And yes, it’s my first retreat.  I wrote something that someone liked and they gave me a kind of scholarship to attend.”

“That’s great.  Congratulations.”

“Yeah I don’t know.  I mean it’s great and all but I don’t know that I really deserve it.  But I am flattered and determined, however those work together.  I guess we’ll see.”

“I guess so.  Is that a White Russian you’re drinking?”

“Why yes it is.”

“Okay.  I’ll be right back.  Would you like anything else?”

“Mister Marshall no you don’t have to do that-”

“Lady J, please, allow an old man to buy a young lady a drink.  We can toast in honor of those no longer with us.”

“How do you-”

“Well it’s quite clear you’re suffering from a loss.  Besides, I want to know about this title and the story it might create, so please, allow me this small gesture.”

“Okay.  You win.  And I’ll tell you all about it when you get back.”