Writing Tips, Tricks and Hints
Writing stories is something every child is asked to do in school. Many children also write stories in their free time. By creating and telling a story, children not only get to stretch their creative muscles, they learn to organize their thoughts and use written language to communicate with readers in a variety of ways. Writing stories also helps children better read and understand stories written by other people.
Below are some fun tips and tricks to help your budding young author craft their written masterpiece!
The best children’s stories have well-developed themes, engaging plots, suitable structure, memorable characters, well-chosen settings, and attractive style. For best results, help build strength in all of these areas. Download this story checklist to review your story.
Where to begin?
Inspiring your young author:
You might want to work with your student / child to help them look for some “story starters.” Story starters are scenarios or statements that someone else has already come up with. An example story starter might be “One day I woke up and discovered that my dog could speak to me.” The child then writes about what might happen next. You’ll find examples of story starters for kids at The Story Starter Junior and Chateau Meddybemps. Each story starter is printable and comes with an illustration. The website Making Books With Children also has some great suggestions for story topics.
When crafting their story, ask the your budding author to consider the following:
- What is the beginning of the story? The middle? The end?
- Who are the characters?
- What do you like about them?
- Where does the story take place?
- Is there a problem that occurs in the story? If so, how does it get resolved?
- What do you think about the ending? Is there a connection, either in words or pictures, between the ending and the beginning of the story?
Aaron Shepard has some great tips for young authors that covers the following topics:
A theme is something important that the story tries to tell us. It is the common thread throughout the story. Oftentimes, the theme is something that might help us in our own lives. Not every story has a theme, but it’s best if it does.
When developing your theme, be careful not to sound too preachy. The theme should feel natural and grow out of the story, so readers can feel that they’ve learned it for themselves. A good theme doesn’t need you to say what the moral of the story is.
Plot is most often about a conflict or struggle that the main character goes through. The conflict can be with another character, or with the way things are, or an internal conflict within the main character.
The main character should win or lose at least partly on their own, and not just be rescued by someone or something else. Most often, the character learns or grows as they try to solve their problem. What the character learns is the theme.
The conflict should get more and more tense or exciting. The tension should reach a high point or “climax” near the end of the story, then ease off.
The basic steps of a plot are: conflict begins, things go right, things go WRONG, final victory (or defeat), and wrap-up. The right-wrong steps can repeat.
A novel can have several conflicts, but a short story should have only one.
At the beginning, jump right into the action. At the end, wind up the story quickly.
Decide about writing the story either in “first person” or in “third person.” Third-person pronouns are “he,” “she,” and “it”—so writing in third person means telling a story as if it’s all about other people. The first-person pronoun is “I”—so writing in first person means telling a story as if it happened to you.
Even if you write in third person, try to tell the story through the eyes of just one character—most likely the main character. Don’t tell anything that the character wouldn’t know. This is called “point of view.” If you must tell something else, create a whole separate section with the point of view of another character.
Decide whether you will write your story in “present tense” or “past tense.” Writing in past tense means writing as if the story already happened. That is how most stories are written. Writing in present tense means writing as if the story is happening right now. Stick to one tense or the other!
Before you start writing, know your characters well.
Your main character should be someone readers can feel something in common with, or at least care about.
You don’t have to describe a character completely. It’s enough to say one or two things about how a character looks or moves or speaks.
A main character should have at least one flaw or weakness. Perfect characters are not very interesting. They’re also harder to feel something in common with or care about. And they don’t have anything to learn. In the same way, there should be at least one thing good about a “bad guy.”
Set your story in a place and time that will be interesting or familiar to your audience.
Style and Tone
Use language that feels right for your story.
Wherever you can, use actions and speech to let readers know what’s happening. Show, don’t tell.
Give speech in direct quotes like “Go away!” instead of indirect quotes like “She told him to go away.”
You don’t have to write fancy to write well. It almost never hurts to use simple words and simple sentences. That way, your writing is easy to read and understand.
Always use the best possible word—the one that is closest to your meaning, sounds best, and creates the clearest image. If you can’t think of the right one, use a thesaurus.
Carefully check each word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph. Is it the best you can write? Is it in the right place? Do you need it at all? If not, take it out!