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Poetry Competitions UK
14 Jun 2011

How to Write a Children's Story

Where do writers find their inspiration? From all around them, every day tasks, journeys and people spark their imaginations. Most writers keep a notepad and pen with them at all times, so they can jot down any interesting places, characters, names or objects they see or hear of.

The plot - a beginning, middle and end. You should have some idea of what your plot is before you start writing. You'll need to decide:

  • A concept for the story
  • How the story starts (the plot)
  • How it develops (the plot)
  • How it will end (the plot)
  • Narrative

A concept of a story means what the story is actually about. Try summarising your favourite children's book(s) down to a sentence. For example, the bare bones of 'The Enchanted Wood' by Enid Blyton is: three siblings move to the countryside and discover a magical forest and its inhabitants.

Plots usually follow the pattern of 'who', 'what', 'where', 'why' and 'when'. The beginning introduces the characters and sets the scene, the middle develops the plot and the end should finish with a climax - a cliffhanger, a happily ever after …

The plot of 'The Enchanted Wood' is: Jo, Bessie and Fanny ('who') move to the countryside and find a magical forest at the end of their garden ('where'). In the wood is the huge Faraway Tree ('what'), which is home to the magical inhabitants who soon become their new friends. Together they regularly ('when') visit the strange lands, which revolve at the top of the tree and have exciting adventures ('why').

So, to summarise:

  • 'Who' is the main characters, Jo, Bessie and Fanny, they have the adventures.
  • 'What' is the Faraway Tree, the tree is what makes the adventures possible.
  • 'Where' is the magical forest at the end of their garden, where the adventures happen.
  • 'When' - the children have regular adventures up the Faraway Tree.
  • 'Why' - the reason they visit the forest is to have the adventures up the Faraway Tree.

Ideas for plots can come from anywhere:

  • Pay attention to people around you - do any of them have any quirks or characteristics that would make a fictional character interesting?
  • Overhearing a conversation
  • A quote, slogan or line from a book, film or song
  • Make the ordinary extraordinary - what if carpets really did fly or the postman was an alien?
  • Base the story on a morals or a set of principles
  • Answer a child's question - 'Are there such things as fairies?'
  • Research other children's authors and see the genres and ideas they use. (Remember, copying someone's else's idea is plagiarism.)

Who will tell your story? This is the narrative.

  • Your main character  this is first person narration.
  • The author - this is third person narration, and commonly the most used in fiction.
  • The main character and the author - a mix of first and third person narration. Has to be executed well to avoid confusion.

Once you have decided your narrative, think about dialogue, if you're using it in your story. Characters should sound authentic - if your main character is a 10-year-old boy, then he needs to sound like one! If your main character has an accent, make sure this comes over in the dialogue too - if the character is French but his dialogue is written in perfect English it's not going to make for a convincing character.

Remember, once you have your story ask someone else for feedback. Tweak and edit it, rarely does anyone write a story that is perfect first time!

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