Unlock a Love of Creative Writing

Inventing new worlds, exploring new experiences, probing new ideas - creative writing is unrivalled in its capacity to engage and entertain children, all the while honing vital skills of empathy and imaginative thinking. And right now, given that there’s scant opportunity to explore the world outside, the intrinsic value of the imagination – and the joy to be had from imaginative writing –is more pertinent than ever. Few feelings beat the satisfaction and fun to be had from creating your own worlds and characters, and the lock-down experience presents a perfect opportunity to foster that sense of satisfaction and fun –there’s no better time to unlock a lifelong love of creative writing. Joanne Owen suggests ways to do just that through activities to spark story ideas, and projects that offer young writers the opportunity to write with real purpose.

Sparking inspiration

Fear of the blank page can be a big obstacle, but there are plenty of effective ways to banish blank-page-blues, not least when you give activities a collective framework and move from off-the-page discussion to on-the-page creativity.

Every object tells a story

Objects are excellent for sparking story ideas, and in workshops I usually contextualise this activity by saying that writers are a bit like explorers and archaeologists, digging up stories and ideas through objects. Ask budding writers to pick an interesting object to use as a springboard for digging up a story idea. Any object will do (which is one of the beauties of this exercise), but old photos, postcards, maps and ornaments work well. Next, pose a series of questions about the object: • What is it? • Does it have any special value or powers? • Where is it? Where did it come from? (the story setting) • Who does it belong to? Is it theirs, or did they find it, or take it from someone else?

• Does someone else want it? Why do they want it? (this could set-up the story conflict, the action, the what-happens-next)

Once a story has suggested itself through the answers and been partially created aloud, ask young writers to put pen to paper to write-up their story.

Flash fiction

This five-minute burst of activity is excellent for warming-up the imagination, plus few things beat the sense of urgency that comes from a ticking clock. Ask young writers to transform three words into a short story in five minutes. The more absurd the better – how about a pineapple, a policeman and a parrot? Alternatively, ask writers to note down the last thing they ate, what they want to be when they grow up, and an item of clothing they would never wear. So, you could end up with a story about, for example, a tutu- wearing footballer who loses a cup final because he scoffed too much chocolate before the match. Once writers have their three words, set the timer for five minutes.

Starting out and weaving back

Story-starters are a perennially effective tool for sparking story ideas – simply provide a selection of opening lines or titles and, as with the ‘every object’ activity, encourage young writers to ask questions about scenarios suggested by the line. As before, the bones of a story will form from the answers. Providing the last lines of stories works well too. Again, encourage questions, this time working to unravel the story backwards. How about this for a last line? ‘Remind me to never, EVER, wear Grandad’s wig ever again!’ What on earth happened when they wore it? Why did it happen? Was it Granddad’s fault? Who wore it? And so on, until hey presto! – stories emerge for writers to develop on the page.

Fiction from Fact

Finding out fascinating facts from the fields of sport, science and nature can provide a fruitful foundation for writing stories, especially for children who are less comfortable letting their imaginations run wild. What’s more, asking individuals to use their favourite hobby

4 Books for Keeps No.247 March 2021

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