Creative: Do’s & Don’ts

There’s a lot to be said about the value of Do’s (or Dos)  and Don’ts in anything, writing, painting, sculpture, in fact in any of the creative arts.

Opinions vary and ideas come and go with the changing motivations behind self-expression and self-reliance.

Every author at some time or another will come across a list of do’s and don’ts (rules about what a person must do or must not do for a particular situation) in writing. Some are self-explanatory and others need lager explanation to be clearer for emerging writers. 

I prefer a positive focus placed on  the dos, and as for don’ts I try not to refer to the word don’t too often. I guess as a student counsellor I’m taught to build on people’s strengths rather than focus on what might be classed as a weakness. So this tends to be how I focus on writing too.


The word Don’t comes for a lot of us, as a caution word. It’s programmed in at an early age. “No, don’t do that.” “Don’t touch anything in the shop, Johnny” or “If you don’t eat your vegetables you won’t get any dessert.” So for some of us we will recognise this word as a DO NOT TRY word. This recall has in my opinion the potential to stifle creativity especially if there is not a satisfying explanation linked to a writing do’s and don’ts tip.  

There’s lots of examples of do’s and don’ts in writing: Don’t start your book with your character waking up, or dreaming, or waking up from a dream.

These writing tips have merit there’s no doubt about that.  But to an emerging writer the writing tip may not be clear enough, and therefore, it could be misinterpreted. A young writer may never think about writing someone waking up at the start of their book unless it comes with conflict. The same goes for dreams. I recently read another writing tip about dreams. Don’t start your book with your character waking up from a dream. That has merit too, but there are other ways to explore this type of beginning and that can be made clearer via a link and explanation. 

Let me explain why some writers say don’t start your book with your character waking up unless it’s part of the conflict. Waking up is viewed as a cliché because this beginning has been used millions of times and may be classed as uninteresting.

 I do believe that in some cases a cliché opens a book beautifully.  It just depends on the writer’s method of introducing the concept into the beginning of a book.

The Hunger Games by Susan Collins starts with Katniss waking up with a thought. The thought poses a question and that is one of the reasons why it works so well. Collins continues to allow Katniss to stretch out over the bed and bring in another thought.

In the preface of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer begins with her character’s thinking about how she had never considered her death, but in that moment she was in fact facing death.

There are thousands of examples of books beginning with clichés. I think the trick is if you wish to utilise these types of beginnings I would suggest you explore the idea and breathe new life into how you do it.

Here are a few examples of cliché type beginnings.

  1. Running through a forest.
  2. Waking up from a dream or nightmare.
  3.  Describing the weather in detail.
  4. Once upon a time or It was a dark and stormy night
  5. Waking up to an alarm clock or phone ringing.
  6. A flashback when staring at something else.
  7. First day at school
  8. A self introduction. My name is…. or describing themselves.
  9. A fight or argument that’s not related to the plot
  10. A death premonition 

In the beginning of my debut book I have my character, Mai sleeping, dreaming, but not like a normal person. Mai is a thoughtbanker and sometimes their dreams are not dreams at all but real memories. It is a skill only thoughtbankers can do: replay a memory as if it were a dream. How I push the story forward is with the memory itself.  The recount of her selection by the eight ministers, an important and powerful memory.

I wanted to explored a new way to introduce a book with a type of dreamscape. This is building on the concept of taking an old overused dream cliché and turning it into a new way of beginning a story.  It’s about challenging a writer’s creativity and doing rather than accepting the don’t do method.

 Until next time, be brave and bold in your chosen field of creativity. And never be afraid to explore new techniques.


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