Sometimes, improving creative writing skills seems daunting—and it can be. But when writers and editors dive deeper into the technicalities of writing, they can fine-tune those creative skills. 

What makes creative writing engaging? This question is frequently explored by writers and editors. As editors, we want to help authors refine their desired product: a gripping, exciting story. Therefore, we should ask the following: Is there a formula for making creative writing engaging? This article highlights research on a simple structure that authors can use to ensure they write memorable stories.


In the article “Developing a Pedagogical–Technical Framework to Improve Creative Writing,” researchers Stefanie Xinyi Chong and Chien-Sing Lee explore existing methods for helping writers refine their creative writing skills. Through testing various methods, the researchers noticed that readers tend to connect with dynamic characters in stories. Chong and Lee explain, “Students were particularly attracted to the . . . characters . . . [who] presented an interesting narrative.” The researchers add that the characters’ narratives “deeply engaged the attention of the learners and provided an emotional connection.”

“Students were particularly attracted to the . . . characters . . . [who] presented an interesting narrative.”

—Stefanie Xinyi Chong and Chien-Sing Lee (2012)

More research led Chong and Lee to create and test their own program for helping students write engaging, creative stories. The program contains a framework that addresses creating dynamic characters, using interesting setting descriptions, and creating identity and interactivity through story structure. To investigate the efficacy of the framework, the researchers tested the writing of various students. The students completed a written pretest, participated in three sessions in which the researchers taught the students using the framework, and then completed a posttest. The researchers compared the scores on the pretest to the scores on the posttest to determine whether the students’ creative writing skills improved.

Chong and Lee found that the students’ ability to write improved to a statistically significant degree. Therefore, Chong and Lee concluded that using technical tactics to build a story with in-depth characters, descriptive settings, and well-thought-out story structures can help individuals successfully write engaging creative stories.


Chong and Lee’s study shows that providing writers with technical writing tools—meaning a specific structure and specific elements to focus the writing on—helps writers create engaging stories. As editors, if we recommend that our authors focus on using this scaffolding for developing characters, setting, and story structure, then authors are likely to write stories that are more engaging and memorable to readers. 

To learn more about improving creative writing, read the full article:

Chong, Stefanie Xinyi, and Chien-Sing Lee. 2012. “Developing a Pedagogical-Technical Framework to Improve Creative Writing.” Educational Technology Research and Development 60 (4): 639–57.

—Elizabeth Gallacher, Editing Research  


Find more research

Check out Kwame Alexander’s (2018) book to learn more about effective story frameworks: The Write Thing: Kwame Alexander Engages Students in Writing Workshop (and You Can Too!). Huntington Beach, CA: Shell Educational Publishing. 

Take a look at Jack Gantos’s (2017) book to better understand how to help authors create great stories: Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop out and Craft Great Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.