Most children are naturally creative, telling stories and making up rhymes to entertain themselves. Translating this natural ability into creative writing can be trickier, however. Here are some strategies to improve creative writing at a variety of ages.
Almost everything has a story behind it, so it’s just worth teasing out what that could be – why does the waitress in the cafe look sad? The story could be a lost love, an ancient curse, or the burden of being the only person in the world to have had contact with another planet… It’s fun to do this on museum visits, such as asking what the story might be behind a particular artefact. Younger children can be encouraged to tell these stories out loud, and older students to write them down.
There are heaps of creative writing competitions out there for any age group, and where intrinsic motivation is lacking, a competitive spirit can help to make up for it. Many competitions will have prizes (such as being included in a print edition) even for runners-up, and there’s nothing like winning to make hard work feel worthwhile.
Lots of people look down on fan-fiction, and it would certainly be frowned upon at school to write a story set in someone else’s fictional universe. But fan-fiction has a long pedigree – think of the number of Sherlock Holmes stories written by people other than Arthur Conan Doyle. Writing with pre-existing characters can be a valuable exercise, taking the pressure off coming up with a setting and letting your child focus on other aspects of creative writing.
Working within a particular form can make writing easier, rather than harder, especially in poetry. Students who struggle with free verse can benefit from learning how to write in a stricter form like a sonnet, limerick or villanelle. This also helps teach how form can affect the impact a poem has; it’s hard work to write a convincingly serious limerick.
Practising Plotting & Planning
Going from a meandering story without a real end to something more tightly plotted is a key challenge for students of creative writing to learn. Techniques such as producing a storyboard or writing one-paragraph summaries of a plot can help to hone these skills. Your child doesn’t need to write the full story to benefit from this, but could instead write outlines based on several different prompts.
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