Creative writing is at the forefront of many educational plans, especially in the earlier grades. Being able to write creatively is a sign of a well developed mind and taking the reader outside of a traditional essay and into your imagination is a skill only solid writers can do well.
When you think of creative writing, a wealth of material should spring to mind. Your creative writing classes might have included poetry, prose, plays, narratives, and much more. For your child, she is likely still back in the entry levels of creative writing which centers on the imaginative, or fiction based, story. That is, she’s making up stories and writing them down.
If your child has always been creative, she likely has some terrific stories and make-believe characters. Getting those ideas onto the paper is a different matter entirely for most children.
The Common Scenario
Most children who can tell a story, start to write the story as they would tell it. But many fizzle out after only a few lines or paragraphs. There is simply too much in the brain to get onto the paper. Many of these children bog down in the details and can’t move the story forward.
The other common scenario for children that have difficulty with creative writing is failing to find a foothold in a topic or idea. They stare at the white piece of paper and experience the worst kind of writer’s block. Helping your child become a better creative writer is an investment in the long-term, but the process itself is straightforward.
Creative Writing Breakdown
When trying to write a story, taking it from your head to the paper is frustrating for many children unless they are writing only a paragraph or two. The story becomes convoluted and the brain can process much more quickly than the pencil or fingers. To get around this problem, you should simply add a step between the thinking, or brainstorming, and the actual writing.
Generate an idea and then start to sketch that idea on paper. You can use many different forms of prewriting, but for the most part, you’re not actually writing more than just a few words or possibly a sentence as your child learns to organize her ideas. One common way to prewrite to make lists on a separate piece of paper.
Make one list of characters in the story much like you would see in a play. Consider this a running list you can add to as she writes more of the story. Your next list will be a list of action in the story itself, i.e. what’s going to happen to those characters? If she already has an idea for the story itself, making a list is much easier than writing the full paper.
She simply jots down ideas such as:
- Fights evil troll.
- Loses fight and becomes slave in his kingdom.
- Meets prince in disguise.
- Makes plan to escape.
- Runs away.
- Prince fights off troll once and for all.
- Married and lives happily ever after to prince.
As you can see from the short series of action steps, there are three primary characters in the story that show up in the character list – the main character, presumably your daughter herself or another female, the evil troll and the prince in disguise. She can add extra characters as she pleases, but the story should center on the main three.
Expand the Lists
Lists are only one way to get thoughts in order during the prewriting stage. Your child might put together a full outline, draw a timeline and write out the action sequence on that, create a bubble web that fall into place, or do anything that helps her sort out the pieces all clashing together in her mind.
Once your thoughts are in order in front of you and your child, it’s a good time to flash out the lists a bit. Look for gaps that might be expanded and add details. How do the prince and the main character escape in the above example? What plan did they make? How did the prince fight the troll – with weapons and skill or clever tricks? Which weapons, which tricks, etc…
Writing the Story
Finally, when the bulk of the urgent questions have been answered, it’s time to start the story itself. With your child’s story outlined in a list in front of her, it’s simply to put those thoughts into detailed sentences and begin to write. As she writes, she should be focused on the following aspects of creative writing:
- Add details to make the scene and story more interesting – don’t just fight the troll, for example, show the audience through words what sights, sounds and smells there were during the fight.
- Keep the plot moving forward. Don’t get so bogged down in details and descriptions that you lose the story. Quality details are meaningful; the color of the main characters shoes and eyelashes is not.
- Develop your characters as necessary. The troll might be there just to be the bad guy, but if the reader is following the actions of the female telling the story, it’s nice to be able to hear her thoughts and emotions as well. Develop characters as much as possible to make them resonate with readers.
- Build the plot up. The story your child is writing should be building to the climax. In the troll story this is likely the part where the troll catches the two escaping and the prince must fight for their lives. Explain the power of a thriller movie to your child. Perhaps even let her watch a tamer one to see how things build and build until you’re breathless with anticipation. You can show her in many of her favorite books as well, especially mysteries, dramas and horror stories. Encourage her to do the same with her story.
- Use a creative ending. If you have a brand new idea for a story, it shouldn’t end with the same tired ending that’s been used ad nausea. Encourage her to use a clever new way of ending the story. They can wind up together, but does it really have to be “happily ever after?”