Unlock your kids' creativity during lock down - Easy exercises to inspire story-writing at home
This article has been written by Joanne Owen.
Let’s begin at the beginning. When it comes to writing good stories – stories that entertain, thrill, move or amuse - and when it comes to getting kids excited about writing their own stories, things like grammar and spelling should never be allowed to crush creativity: the story always comes first (the idea, the characters, the action, the urge to find out what happens next). That’s not to say spelling and grammar aren’t important - of course they are. But I’ve seen too many kids dragged down worrying about all that, to the extent they think they can’t write, or they don’t like writing. Which is a tragedy. Writing stories should be fun, fun, fun. And encouraging kids to write stories should be fun, fun, fun, so here are some exercises to foster that sense of fun and help inspire story-writing.
1. Banish blank page blues
“I don’t know what to write.” We’ve all been there. Facing a blank page (or screen) can be a pretty bleak place. But a good place to start, a bouncy springboard for story ideas, is to take an object – any object – and build a story around it by posing a few questions.
Invite your budding writer to source an object from around the house. Next, ask them to answer these questions about it:
- What’s your object?
- Where is it? (the story setting)
- Who does it belong to? (the main character)
- Does the object have any special value or powers? (this could set the story genre)
- Does anyone want to get their hands on the object? (this could set-up the story conflict, the action, the what-happens-next)
- What happens when the person gets their hands on it?
Now ask them to expand these answers into a story.
2. Kickstart with a story-starter
You could also use story-starter sentences to stave-off those “I don’t know what to write” protests. Here are a few examples:
- “I have big news!” announced the headmaster. “We’ve won School of the Year, and we’re all going on a safari trip-of-a-lifetime! The only downside is that we have to…”
- With a crack and a creak, the attic opened to reveal a big, hairy …
- “BLIMEY!” bellowed Granny. “I appear to have grown bumblebee wings!”
And here are titles to use in the same way:
- The Haunted Hamster
- When the Sun Forgot to Rise
- The Pants from Planet Bog
3. Boredom-busting “five-minute frenzies”
To combat, “I’m bored! Can I do something else?” requests, try these exercises that keep writing bursts short and sweet (or maybe short and scary).
- Speed writing: give them three words to write a story about in five minutes. For example: a puppy, a policeman, and a set of keys. Or a football, a fridge and a witch. Or a Martian, a maths teacher and the full moon. Set a timer to set them off writing.
- Food for thought: ask them to check the cupboards and fridge to find a food to use as inspiration for a super-short story. Free up their imaginations with some examples - a wrinkly avocado could be a shrunken head. Or what if that banana in the fruit bowl has been bugged and planted by a spy? Once again, set a timer and get them going.
Joanne is a writer, an editorial expert and the author of You Can Write Awesome Stories from Collins.