Creativity and Expository Writing

by Randy Murray on September 27, 2012

I make my living as a writer. Some label me as a copywriter. That’s fine. But I think of the work that I do as expository writing.

I write to educate, convince, or compel. I deal with logic, ideas, facts, and their relationship to emotions. And to do that takes a great deal of creativity.

I’ve seen other writers try to deal just with the facts. The result is often dry and uninteresting. A piece can be technically correct, grammatical, and orderly. That doesn’t make it interesting or effective. Creativity is called for in virtually every type of writing.

Here’s the secret: as a copywriter, someone trying to convey information, just laying out the information isn’t enough. You have to understand what the reader will want and need and write with that clearly in your mind. You need to find a way to convey the information, not just state it.

That’s the secret of great expository writing. You have to be very imaginative.

That may seem, at first glance, to be completely at odds with the needs of nonfiction, but I’ve found that great expository writing needs creative inspiration.

Journalism and reporting can be completely fact based. Here’s what happened. Who, what, why, where, when. Reporting is just that, but even good reporting takes a creative mind and approach to engage the reader.

History, on the other hand, contains facts (we hope), but has the job of conveying the story. That takes creativity. Virtually every type of business literature and marketing does, too.

Know your target reader, learn as much as you can about them, then imagine them in as much detail as possible. Then you can write for them.

And a word of advice: never state directly: “I know you. I know your problems. I know what you need.”

That’s an automatic exit for most readers. It’s easy to say in reply, “No, you don’t.” and move on. And it’s true. You don’t know the individual. If you open any piece that way you’re insulting the reader, setting yourself up as above them, claiming that some stranger can know them without having met them. Write to their needs and wants, but don’t be arrogant.

You need to convince the reader that you understand their needs without saying that directly. That takes creativity.

The Creativity and Expository Writing by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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