Looking for some tips on how to write a story? You’ve come to the right place. In this section, I offer my secrets to writing along with writing prompts that students can use to apply my tips. For younger readers, I have a puzzle game and a quiz about True Story. I also have a section for teachers who want some help in inspiring their students to write stories.
Writing Tips for Kindergarten – Grade 3
Writing Tip #1: Picture the story in your head before you write it down.
Writing Tip #2: Know what your character wants in the story. Make it hard for them to get what they want.
Writing Tip #3: Add fun details to help us imagine your characters. Give them something no one else has. For example, give them an eyepatch, a scar, or a purple dinosaur earring.
Writing prompt: What do you think the boy is trying to tell his dad?
Writing Tips for Grades 4-6
Writing can be fun if you know the secret to a good story. The trick is to get your main character into trouble. The more trouble you create for your character, the more interesting the story becomes. Think video games. The best ones are hard to beat. The boring games are the ones you beat in five seconds. In the box below, you’ll find Marty’s secrets to writing, along with a writing prompt.
The great thing about writing a story is you can make your character do all the things you’re not allowed to do in real life. Find ways to get your character in trouble.
Borrow from your life to flesh out your story. Use the details of places you’ve been to beef up your settings. Every person you meet might have a personality that suits your character.
If you haven’t described clothes, the reader will think your characters are naked. Make sure you have dressed your characters.
Try this as the beginning of your story:
Your character received a wrapped gift box, but it’s not Christmas or your character’s birthday. What’s inside?
Writing Tips for Grades 7-12
Fiction is a fabric of lies, and your job as writers is to mend all the holes in the material. The key to doing this is in your characters. If we can empathize with your characters and believe in their motivations, we will stick with your story no matter where you take us. Below, you’ll find some tips to help you write your stories.
Writers fall into two camps: “pantsers” or planners. Either you write by the seat of your pants, or you like to outline your story. Here’s a simple formula that works for both types of writers. Character goal + motivation + obstacles = story. You can flesh out the details in your outline or your first draft. The choice is yours.
Character is action, and action is plot. When you build obstacles in your story, how your characters face the obstacles will reveal their characters. If your characters are brash, they’ll tackle anything head-on. If they are manipulative, they lie to get their way.
The climax of the story should create the maximum physical and emotional jeopardy for your protagonist. If the readers don’t care what happens to the character at the climax, then you haven’t raised the stakes enough. The climactic battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is a cool light sabre fight, but the fact that father and son must battle gives the climax its maximum intensity.
Try this as a prompt for a short story:
A girl walks down a dark street in the middle of the city. She hears footsteps echoing on the pavement behind her. She turns to look, but no one is there. What does she do?
Writing Tips for Teachers
If you’re a librarian or language arts teacher looking for tips and strategies to inspire reluctant readers and writers, you’ve come to the write place. In the box below, I’ve written a few tips I’ve developed over the years.
If you’re already reading stories aloud to reluctant readers, great. Try turning sections of the story into plays that the kids can act out. Find stories that have fun dialogue for the kids to read. Double cast your reluctant readers with a strong reader so they can perform the dialogue together.
My favourite game to play with division 2 students is Eyewitness, a writing exercise that illustrates how details can paint a picture. One kid leaves the room while another “steals” something from the front of the class. The other students are eyewitnesses who must describe the thief without pointing or using his or her name. You can adapt this exercise by getting the kids to write five sentences to describe their classmate and see how many sentences their friends need to guess the person.
If you want kids to deliver personal stories, create a safe environment for them to share their stories. The best way to do this is to open the unit by sharing a personal anecdote. You can talk about your childhood, family or pets, as long as the story is genuine and personal. Once the kids see that you can share, they will open up.