The most challenging aspect of story writing is coming up with the idea or inspiration as well as the structure. This can be the case for children and adults alike, but once these have been established, writing a story can become a ‘breeze’. Now that is definitely our idea of a breath of fresh air!
Bearing the above in mind, we have put together the following tips to help you help your child overcome these challenges.
The story idea
This could be quite tricky and it is at this stage that you tend to get a lot of pencil-chewing and ceiling-gazing, as children try to think of what to write about. The truth of the matter is that ideas are not far from them; they are in fact everywhere and they don’t have to stray too far to find them. This is, however, a practice that has to be nurtured and consistently implemented in order for it to become second nature to them.
A great place to start is always from books they have read or are reading. Now before you read this section with wide eyes and an open mouth, thinking…. but surely, that would be…...? I’ll stop you there, by informing you that even the greatest authors had to seek inspiration from somewhere. The keyword being inspiration…. not plagiarism.
Have a brainstorming session with your child about events, themes, plots, etc. that they have read about in their current or previous books and what they thought about them. Have them think about areas or sections of the plot/theme they could make changes to, to either change the mood, genre or general atmosphere; could the genre be changed from fantasy to something more realistic or vice-versa, and if so, how could this affect the characters. It could be a case of discussing how the current story ends which in turn could provide great material for a new and original story. Real-life experiences, such as a family holiday, an event at home or a friend’s house (sleep-over, etc.). Once the ideas are tackled from such perspectives, it will become clear to your child that the possibilities are indeed endless. The challenge would then become – how to manage them!
The Setting and Characters
Once the story idea has been established, the next step would be to think about the sort of characters your child would like to feature in their story. These could have been touched upon while brainstorming the story idea, but if not, a simple discussion about who they would like their main character /s to be would be all it takes at this point. It would also be a good idea to keep the number characters to a minimum – say one (or two) main character and perhaps a few more supporting characters. This is just to make the story more manageable for your child, especially if they are new to this process. As children themselves, the tendency could be to write about children, which is great because they would be able to draw from their experiences and make the characters more relatable.
Having said that, they might decide to have an animal as the main character or even an adult. Thought would also need to be given to where the story would take place; at school, at home, on holiday, another country or even another planet!
Your child should feel free to explore and let their imagination run wild – after all, it is their story, their creation and best to have them be in charge of it.
The basic structure of a children’s story would be to have a beginning, middle and an end. This is where your child could expand on their story idea and set the opening scene. The beginning would normally introduce the main character and the situation. What would your child like us (the readers) to know about the main character? Could it be about a child that was a bully, or a pet dog with superpowers!
Discuss this part with your child so he/she learns to understand and identify it in the stories they read. It would be an idea to go back to some of the books they have read to see if they can discover/ remember the section of the book where they came upon such situations. This will help your child become more familiar with this part of the story and enable them insert one into their own story.
The climax or turning point in the story would be the point at which the tension is at its highest, or it is the time when the action starts during which the solution is given. This is the point to which the rising action has been building and the point at which the characters have what they need to resolve the conflict.
This section of the story is usually in the middle and helps to make it more interesting. It can be that ‘aha’ moment, when a discovery or a surprise shakes thing up and the real action begins. Have discussions with your child about different scenarios that could lead to this and what sort of revelations could manifest at this point. It’s always an idea to go with things the reader least expects – was there a situation where the pet dog though it had to step in and save the family, and in doing so, reveal its superpowers…only to find out they possessed superpowers too! Remember, it is your child’s story, so they can run with it in whichever direction they see fit.
To round things up, your child’s story will need a good and meaningful resolution – something that preferably links back to all the great happenings in the plot. This could be brainstormed with your child about how they think they could bring their readers down from that very gripping climax, that (hopefully) kept their readers on the edge of their seat.
After the resolution, the readers would like to know what happened to the characters afterwards. How did the events affect the characters – were there any lessons to be learnt from the ordeal/story. Again, discuss and brainstorm with your child in order to come up with ways to find the perfect ending to the story.
The steps mentioned above should create the perfect format for any child starting out with story writing. As with any new process, it will need to be practiced, as that is what will make your child perfect in the art. As parents, our role is to support and guide. But in all of this, remember – it is your child’s creation.
For more posts on writing, have a look at the links below:
Leaders are Readers also has a writing workshop as part of the Language Sense Programme which would also greatly benefit your child. Click on the links below to find out more.
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