Monday, August 27, 2012

Tips and Prompts for Young Writers


All writers have days when they need something to kickstart their writing. Here are some prompts and tips for when that happens to you.

*Try those two magic words, "what" and "if". Do this by asking yourself "what if" questions:

• what if your greatest wish came true?
• what if you found a baby monster?
• what if you were invisible?
• what if friends were banned?
• what if you found a secret portal to another world?

Does one of those questions spark an idea? Start writing!

*Start with a problem. What is it? Who has it? What is your character going to do about it? What problems does the character encounter?

*Play a game. Get together with some friends. Write down a list of heroes, villains, settings and problems. Cut each list up to make four piles. Have each person take one from each pile and that is the outline of their story. If it doesn't work, try again. Have fun with it!

*Let technology help. Try Scholastic's online Story Starter. Spin the four wheels to create your prompt. I ended up with "Write a sword-and-sorcery story about a cranky hippopotamus who is afraid of spiders." Choose a format for your story and start typing.

*Sometimes when you're stuck for ideas, a picture is useful. Look through some magazines, at art work, or online, and see if an image sparks an idea for a story. In Becoming a Story Detective, author Sandy Fussell gives ideas you can use to tease out your writing once you have a picture you like.

*Do you know Storybird? It's an online place where you can make a free digital book using the wonderful illustrations provided. I love the range of pictures and often browse there, looking for story ideas. Here's an example of a book I made for you to check out.

*A while back, I wrote a series of articles that gave prompts for creativity. One of those might give you an idea to base your writing on.

*Sometimes not thinking can unblock your writing. At One Word.com, you have sixty seconds to respond to a one-word prompt above your screen. Don't think, just write!

*When I have a particular problem in a story, and need to think my way through it, I go to the Dreamlines website. Here you simply enter keywords, and then you're presented with a sequence of dream-like images. When one of my characters was feeling lonely, I believed I wasn't entering into her feelings enough. I typed "loneliness" into Dreamlines, and somehow that helped me find the emotions of an earlier time I'd been lonely myself, and relate better to my character.

Creating stories is huge fun, but every writer gets blocked once in a while. A complete change of pace can also work - go for a walk, hide under the dining table and listen to music, lie on the grass and watch clouds. Whatever you do, don't give up. Take a break, but then get back to it. Writers write!

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Find more articles about Writing by clicking on the Writing button in the right sidebar here at www.thebookchook.com The Book Chook regularly writes a column with writing tips for kids in Alphabet Soup Magazine, the print magazine for children who love to read and write. 

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