Creative writing can be a real positive force for children’s lives and development, but how does a child get started with creative writing? There are many ways, but it can often be helpful to have a structure to work from, so we’ve outlined some simple steps on how your child can write a story and enjoy themselves in the process! As they brainstorm, a lot of ideas will come to mind, so we recommend they take notes throughout the process!
Your child may not be quite ready to start, and that’s perfectly normal; writing can be difficult! Luckily, there are several activities that can help ease them into the writing process.
Instead of writing a specific story, they can start by free writing (which simply means writing about anything). With no pressure, they can create a stream-of-consciousness piece that can start as a jumping off point.
Creative writing doesn’t even have to start with writing: it can start from what inspires your child. Whether they get inspired by drawing or perhaps your child uses unconventional materials like arranging fridge magnets to get inspired, there are many ways to get your children to start thinking about how to express themselves.
When all else fails, encourage your child to read more. The more that your child reads, the easier it will be for them to start writing.
Creating a character is a good way to get started. Once your child creates a character, they can start building outwards - giving that character a name, personality traits and finally a universe that it lives in. These key details allow the child to start building a story.
Encourage your child to create any character they want. Maybe they will create a human, or maybe they will create a made-up species! From there, they can brainstorm what would happen in the character’s life, and what other characters would be involved.
Once they have a character, you can encourage your child to think of that character’s “why”, answering questions such as:
You can explain the most common structure of a story, where two main characters act as hero and villain. The villain is typically portrayed as a negative character who introduces a problem (the antagonist), and the hero is a positive character who solves the problems (the protagonist). From there, they can create side characters, which can be explained as people who are important to the main characters. These are typically parents, siblings, friends, and spouses, but for now, your child doesn’t need to create that many! You can ask them what kinds of characters come to mind, and aim for two or three side characters.
Prompt: How about creating a character that is half dog, and half elephant? You can call it a Doggophant! What does a Doggophant like to eat?
In order to start writing a story, your child needs to decide where it takes place. This could be in a real location (e.g. London), or a fictional location (e.g. Hogwarts in Harry Potter). A helpful way to start brainstorming is to ask your child about places they have been to, learned about or seen on TV/read about in stories. This is a chance for your child to think about what is most interesting to them. Through this brainstorming process, they can officially decide on a setting and a genre. They don’t need to worry about figuring out all the details right away - that will happen as they go.
Prompt (continued): Where does a Doggophant usually live? Is it a magical Night Zoo?
Before planning the plot, they need to understand the structure of writing a story - having a beginning, middle, and end. They most likely know the meaning of these words, but may not know how to apply them in a creative way. A simple explanation would be:
the beginning is to introduce the characters and set the scene (e.g. a Doggophant who lives in the Night Zoo)
the middle is to introduce the conflict or problem
the ending resolves the conflict/problem
You can go through these one at a time. For the beginning, they can come up with descriptions of the characters. For the middle and end, they can try to put themselves in the characters’ shoes, thinking of a problem they would have and how they would resolve it.
Prompt (continued): Doggophants love when people visit the Night Zoo, but a new character named Lord Nulth is trying to steal all of the creativity in the Zoo! Does Lord Nulth sound like a nice person? Why would he want to steal creativity? How will Doggophant and other animals stop him?
As we highlighted earlier, your child can start their story through drawing, with unconventional materials, or by saying it out loud! If you’ve started the previous steps in a more unconventional way, the time has finally come to begin writing! Tell your child that the previous steps were designed to give them a starting point, but they don’t need to worry about following them exactly. As they get in the flow of writing out their story, they are bound to make changes and come up with new ideas (which is actually one of the best parts of the process!).
When they are writing, it is important for you to step back and let them concentrate. However, you can check in on them, and offer to help if they get stuck. You can read what they have so far and give them little suggestions. This is similar to a writing prompt - they are provided with the initial idea, but it’s up to them to figure out a way to move it forward.
One of the best parts of creative writing is the freedom it allows children. They can take their story wherever they want, and they don’t have to strictly follow rules. Keep a closer eye on your child as they are in the beginning stages so that you can help guide them. Encourage them as they explore their imaginations and set words to paper! Perhaps, give them a goal of finishing the story. While this may seem simple, it can be common for children to lose interest as the time goes on (perhaps from frustration or lack of inspiration). There is no need to set a word count or a time limit, but in general, there is a sense of accomplishment when a project is officially completed. You can set little goals, perhaps 20 words each session.
If you need to, allow your child to move slowly and build their story bit by bit. By the time they are finished with the story, they will hopefully be motivated to write another one, or to expand their original one. This should be a rewarding experience for both the child and the parent. Be sure to give your child positive encouragement, and to soak in the experience of reading the story. They have created something one-of-a-kind, and it will give you an exciting look into their imagination!
So there you have it, a step-by-step guide on how to encourage your child to write a story! While these steps should give you an easy-to-follow framework, remember that they are only a starting point. Once your child has an understanding of these steps, they have gained a skill that they can keep forever.
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