What Is Creative Writing For Entertainment

(This sample includes authors like Rick Moody, Alix Ohlin, and Ben Lerner.) For the sake of comparison, we also collected a similarly sized group of novels published over the same time period by authors who haven’t earned an MFA degree (including writers like Donna Tartt, Miranda July, and Akhil Sharma).

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MFA novels tend to use pairs of adjectives or adverbs less often, or avoid the more straightforward structure of a noun followed by a verb in the present tense.

But other than that, there’s nothing detectably unique about the so-called “MFA style.”So far, nothing.

It was extremely difficult to separate the MFA and non-MFA writing groups in any meaningful way.

If these results seem unbelievable, we shared this feeling as we carried out our tests.

As one brochure has it, the goal of the adjunct faculty of an MFA program is to “work closely with their students to help them develop their own voices, styles, and form.” Presumably upon graduation those voices should be discernibly different than what’s already out there on the market.

However, taking syntax as a measure of style—if we see style as the way writers sequence their words, the way they put their sentences together—we saw little difference between the two groups.

So we decided to examine to what extent writing from MFA graduates differs from writing by non-graduates.

We collected a sample of 200 novels written by graduates of MFA programs from over 20 leading programs (including Columbia, University of Texas at Austin, Iowa, and others) that have been published in the last 15 years.

Nevertheless, there are some words that are different, but given that we’re talking about over 200,000 unique words, this is hardly surprising. They prefer names like Ruth, Pete, Bobby, Charlotte, and Pearl (while non-MFA novels seem to like Anna, Tom, John, and Bill).

But on the whole, these distinctions look pretty meaningless; the words that appear more often in MFA novels don’t seem to be related to each other in a significant way.


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