To jump to our list of 50 creative writing prompts for children – click here.
What Is Creative Writing?
To concisely summarise the definition of creative writing provided in Wikipedia; it can be described as inventive story telling with an emphasis on narrative craft. This short description does little justice to the complexity of teaching this skill to children (and adults!). In this article we are going to look at various considerations. tips and method (i.e how/why use creative writing prompts as a teaching aids?) when educators try to develop this competency in kids. The contents of this article will be relevant to any child that is required to write imaginative stories or non-fiction stories in an engaging manner or style.
Teaching Children Creative Writing
There are several techniques and methods that can be used to help young writers generate creatively written work. There are also many aspects of creative writing that don’t necessarily fall neatly into the definition of a technique or method. Several of these considerations need to be used together in order to see results – but how many can actually be applied when preparing any piece of written work depends on the level of mastery of the child.
When introducing the concept for the first time, the educator (parent or teacher) should draw attention to the following 3 considerations for a start:
- It is essential to think about the reader. This consideration is the most basic and fundamental of considerations behind any piece of good writing. If the written work does not appeal to the specific reader it is intended for, it will fail in delivering its intended message however well it may be written.
- Introduction – Climax – Conclusion structure. This is a very basic structure of writing any story. Of course, advanced writers will be able to break this structure down or rearrange it to something more complex and/or engaging. For a start, a child should be encouraged to write with a fixed content structure so that the emphasis can be on the language being used to build the narrative. Learning to use different structures of content writing is best done by reading stories written by experienced writers. After a child is comfortable with using the standard story structure decribed above, he/she can move on to using other common story structures that are easy to implement. Such content structures are – “Memory Flashback structure” this typically looks like – Conclusion – Introduction-Climax. “Dual Stories structure” that typically has 2 stories running concurrently that intersect at some point before the conclusion. “Dual Climax structure” that typically has 1 twist in the story (1st climax) followed by an unexpected issue caused by the twist (2nd climax), followed the final resolution
- Focus on pace. For a start – this can be done by experimenting with punctuation and sentence length. Managing the pace of a story means writing in a manner that increases the emotional engagement of a reader. To use a very simplified example – when writing about a police car pursuing a bank robber in a getaway vehicle; sentence structure used should be smooth, flowing and short. The action being described should be straight forward and easy to understand. The idea is to have the reader go through the content quickly, to be in cohesion with the speed of the action being described. Such a scene is not the time to describe irrelevant information such as the weather or to switch to an extended flash back scenario description. Of course, expert writers will be able to do so while maintaining the reader’s engagement, but new learners are encouraged to keep things simple for a start.
There are 3 common ways to maintain pace:
- Managing pace with sentence length, as we described above
- Managing pace with punctuation (i.e exclamation points, semi-colons, commas, etc.)
- Managing engagement with content type (i.e narratives, direct, reported speech, etc.)
Sometimes a combination of all three ways is necessary to achieve the desired effect on the reader.
The best way to passively and gradually improve all three areas, is to encourage the child to read from a wide variety of sources, in order to build a mental bank of writing techniques and styles to reapply in their own work.
Features Of Creative Writing
The factors of writing that determine how creative (or not) a piece of written content is a highly subjective topic. We have already discussed some of the commonly recognised factors or features earlier in this article. You will find below a more complete list of factors that should be considered when trying to work on developing competency in creative writing in children. This list is not exhaustive and there are several other factors that we have left out. Drop us a comment down below if you would like us to add anything to this.
- Story structure (as discussed earlier in this article)
- Sentence length (as described earlier in this article)
- Appropriate content type (as mentioned earlier in the article)
- Use of punctuation (as mentioned earlier in this article)
- Scene selection and level of description accorded
- Engaging and immersive plot (not to be confused with an interesting story)
- Reasonably interesting story
- Rhythm – switching between report speech, narratives, direct speech etc.
- Character Emphasis
Every one of these factors is interconnected with one other and cannot be developed individually. If you would like us to publish articles elaborating any of these points, please drop us a comment down below.
Creative Writing For Beginners: Getting Started Somewhere
We have very strongly hinted that the factors and elements of creative writing need to be holistically developed. Yet, it is quite impossible to develop any one of these areas properly without practice. So when teaching a child to write creatively or when trying to learn how to write creatively – our recommendation to get started is simply to:
- Start by writing.
- Then improving that piece of writing over several iterations.
With enough practice, the number of iterations it takes before creating a creatively written piece of content should decrease until finally, no iterations are needed at all.
Let’s use a simple sentence as an example:
1: Start By Writing
Let’s try to make this sentence more engaging and interesting to read:
“Joseph went to the supermarket.”
- Iteration #1 (adding scene)
On a rainy day, Joseph went to the supermarket.
- Iteration #2 (adding descriptive style & punctuation)
One particularly wet morning, Joseph went to the supermarket.
- Iteration #3 (adding mood though deduction)
One particularly wet morning, Joseph dragged himself out of bed and trudged to the supermarket.
- Complete. Repeat the exercise by writing a new sentence.
This whole process is easier than it seems and when starting out, as many iterations as possible can be used. All that your child (the trainee creative writer) actually has to endeavour to do, is to make the next iteration more interesting to read than the previous. The more a child has read, the easier it will be for the child to draw from a mental bank of resources to improve on each sentence.
Creative Writing Tips & Techniques: General Tips For Teachers & Parent Educators
- Encourage the learner to just write something and get started somewhere.
- Ensure the learner allocates time to reading from a variety of sources every day– including comics, short stories and novels. This gives the individual a larger “mental bank” of techniques and styles to reapply.
- Enforce the use of a thesaurus and do not discourage the learner from using new or exotic words, or old words in new ways.
- Encourage the learner to reapply interesting creative writing methods he/she may have seen in the written works of others.
- Teach progressively – one lesson can be an emphasis on character, another on theme and another on content structure, but don’t stop the child from applying everything at once.
- Do grammar and spelling drills often so that language competency does not become a hindrance to creativity.
- Encourage a habit of reading and writing something every day.
Creative Writing Prompts
What are writing prompts?
Creative writing prompts are used to get writers into story telling mode quickly. This works well for both children and adults.
Creative writing prompts can take many forms.
This is a creative writing prompt: “John was in the supermarket when all of a sudden …”
This is also a creative writing prompt: “John was in the supermarket last night when the meteor struck. We have not been able to contact him since morning”
This is also a creative writing prompt too: Tell a story about a man who went to the supermarket to buy vegetables but ended up buying a puppy instead.
Creative writing prompts are used by authors at all levels to write all sorts of genres. Certain genres are understandably unsuitable for children so when you download or print a list of creative prompts off the Internet – educators must make sure these are specifically written for children.
Alternatively, parents or educators can simply give the child a topic to write about and let the child come up with his/her own creative prompt to get started.
Some advanced writers use creative prompts to complete entire novels around a loosely hashed original plot. With a healthy imagination, this method will also work for short stories and essays.
Story Writing Watch-Outs For Children
When children are tasked to write stories, the rules of physics may end up taking a back seat. Their works may also be heavily influenced by the cartoons they have been watching or the toys they have been playing with. The biggest issue with this that most educators will face is that they are unable to understand the context behind what children have written.
This occurs because to a child, an imaginary character’s ability to “mould his chakra and shoot fireballs while flying through the air” may be something that needs no background information. But to an adult reader or teacher who is unfamiliar with the Naruto anime series, this sentence or concept may make no sense at all.
Pro-Tip: Do not ridicule or mock children who write in this way. Instead, educators need to teach children when to include additional background information to a story. If the story required must be realistic, they will need to explain this to children as best as they can. Over time and with sufficient coaching, the child will learn to filter ideas into “physically possible” and “physically not possible” buckets and also into “ok to include in this story” and “not ok to include in this story” buckets.
Creative Writing Prompts & Short Story Ideas (list)
Below you will find our very own list of creative writing prompts specifically written to be suitable for young children.
- Write a story about a boy who could fly, but he could only fly backwards
- Imagine a large off shared box is delivered to you in school, what is inside it?
- Describe what it would be like to have an ostrich as a pet
- Write a story about scary looking neighbours who turn out to be really nice
- Imagine you have a classmate who is actually a princess of a faraway kingdom
- Write a story about a basketball player who had 4 arms
- Describe how you would design your dream house
- Write a story about a man who travelled to outer space on a bicycle
- Write a story about a boy who loved to eat candy all the time
- Write a story about a girl who became an astronaut
- What would humans do if turtles took over the world one day?
- Imagine you are leading a space mission to the planet Mars and you meet aliens only you can see
- Imagine your school bus got into an accident and you had to save everybody
- What would it be like to live on a yacht instead of a house
- What kind of movies would you make if you were a movie director
- Imagine finding a magic lamp and being able to make 100 wishes
- Imagine you have a large tree in your garden that talks only to you
- Imagine you find a pair of shoes that make you smarter
- Imagine you went to the beach and meet a mermaid
- Imagine your pet dog brings home a kitten
- What kind of amusement park rides would you create if you owned an amusement park?
- Use these 4 words to write a story: mouse, cat, tractor and candy
- What is your dream job?
- Write a story about having to fly and land a plane safely because the pilot fell sick
- Write a story about a thunderstorm that you got stuck in
- Write a story about an adventure you had in the forest when you got lost
- What would you do if you found a dragon sleeping under your school desk?
- Imagine you could re-write the ending to your favourite movie – how would it end?
- Imagine you accidentally broke a friend’s toy that you had borrowed
- Write a story about a pet kitten that grows into a tiger!
- Write a story about friends who look out for each other
- David was running to school because he was late when all of a sudden …
- Billy was about to leave the classroom when all of a sudden …
- John was crying in the school hall. Why?
- Jane was pointing to someone behind me and screaming hysterically. Why?
- Write a story about a time you went to a concert but it got cancelled half way
- If you bumped into the ruler of your country, what would you ask him/her?
- If you were a King/Queen what is the first thing you would do for the people in your kingdom?
- Write a story about a hero you know
- Write a story about something you saw that scared you
- Imagine you fall sick the day before you are supposed to host a big party at home
- Write a story where you over hear the clock in your house talking to the television
- Imagine you have to eat something new in a foreign country, but you do not know what it is!
- Imagine your room started to tidy itself every morning on its own
- Imagine you bump into an alien in the forest who is lost and asking for directions back to the planet Mars
- Imagine you see your neighbour conducting science experiments in her attic. What is going on?
- Imagine you could see and walk through walls
- Imagine your little baby brother wants your favourite toy and starts crying for it all the time
- Describe a story where you go rock climbing in outer space
- Imagine that everybody at home and school forgets it’s your birthday
The following sites also have lots of resources for creative writing prompts. We have no affiliation with these sites.
- ThinkWritten.Com : https://thinkwritten.com/writing-prompts-for-kids/
- JournalBuddies.com : https://www.journalbuddies.com/journal_prompts__journal_topics/creative-writing-prompts-for-kids/
Brought to you by the KidsEnglishCollege™ Editorial Team.
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