Some children absolutely love writing stories. Their eyes widen with excitement and their imagination gets fired up. They talk animatedly about the characters they are developing. They spend a lot of time developing plots and various scenes. They go into amazingly intricate detail about backdrops and scenery.
The truth is that these children enjoy the process of inventing something completely new and fresh. They are in flow – a mental state where they are performing an activity, fully immersed and focused. It is as if time has slowed down and their sense of perception heightened.
However, there are also children who may not enjoy the writing process very much.
They may struggle to develop a plot. They may find themselves constantly coming up against a brick wall in terms of ideas. There may be tears of frustration, and sometimes, anger.
They may feel stuck.
Sometimes, they don’t know how to take an idea forward or they don’t understand how to plan or structure their story. There may be multiple issues at play. They may also feel like the topic they need to write about is boring or irrelevant to them.
That said, writing stories can be very good for children. It entertains and fosters artistic expression. It stimulates imagination and helps children clarify thinking.
If you are working to help children write, here are three great ideas you can explore to bring the fun and enjoyment back into the writing process:
1. The opening hook
Get the child to think about how they will capture the reader’s attention from the outset.
Ask the child to consider being a little mysterious. Ask them to think about how they may arouse their reader’s curiosity. Perhaps they could raise a problem.
What is the opening hook?
In brief, there are several types of hooks ranging from dramatic action and mysterious settings to engaging characters. They all, however, aim to demonstrate to the reader that their story is worth reading.
As Joslyn Chase explains in How to Write a Hook by Baiting Your Reader with Questions, hooks “can be very powerful, but their potency fades, so new hooks need to be threaded in as the story progresses, keeping the reader moving forward along your story’s track.”
Paul Hellman’s (consultant, author and speaker ) CNBC article, Open Your Story with a Hook: 7 examples is wonderful for showing how hooks can be developed.
2. Colorful details
Details make the story.
When children use descriptive language, they control pace and mood. Descriptions provide the background for any action that may develop. Consider how to describe the characters’ physical features.
Eva Langston shares 10 tips for writing physical descriptions of your characters including using figurative language, describing facial expressions or scattering physical descriptions throughout the prose.
But children also need to understand that details should be succinct. Ask them how they can craft their message with fewer words yet still retain interest. Get them to consider what words, when removed, may not affect the message.
The reason for brevity is to communicate more in less time and space. The point of brevity, as Muhammad Saleem shares in the Copyblogger article, Two Techniques that help you embrace brevity, is “not to say less, it’s to say what needs to be said effectively and concisely”.
Given attention spans today, Pete Boyle cleverly showcases what he means when he says, “your content, regardless of use, needs to be as long as necessary, and no longer”. But you must realise when cutting too much doesn’t serve the purpose. This is a process that takes time and effort to perfect. Joy lies in discovery.
3. Twist at the end
Talk to the child about creating a twist.
It should be something unexpected – this means something happens that the reader could in no way infer was going to happen. Sometimes, it may mean something expected but occurring at an unexpected time.
A good way to do this is to approach your story as a reader. Imagine how you would react to the story. In what direction were you expecting the story to go? What twists came to your mind?
Get the child questioning and asking “what if?” about the topic regularly throughout the writing process to get inspired and create new ideas and twists.
While these may appear as three simple ideas, they are powerful in helping to effect change in how children approach writing in general. Anything we can do to get children to love writing will be immensely useful. Practice makes perfect but to practise, children need to remain motivated and interested in the process as much as the end result.
Can you write a story that is exactly 100 words? Challenge accepted. Join us at www.storyathon.com