Friday, February 22, 2008

Writing Tips for Creative Kids

So you want to write a story! Congratulations, this is an exciting and fun venture that both you and your readers will enjoy.

Don't think that being a kid is going to stop you from creating just like the adults do. In fact, kids are better at using their imagination, and not letting critical thinking get in the way, so you do have some benefits that will help you churn out a great story.

The most important tip to remember is not to tell everything. The best way to get your readers' imaginations working is to only tell the most important details, and let them fill in the rest.

With that in mind, here are some simple steps you can follow to get your story from your head onto the paper, and then into the hands of others.

Step 1: Idea

Before you start writing, you should have an idea that you will be writing about. It might be something that happened in real life, to you, or your friends, or your pets. Or you might imagine what your pets would say if they could talk, and write a story around that. Think about what kinds of adventures they would get into.

Your favorite stories or comics could also inspire you. Never copy what someone else has created, but you can let it give you ideas that you will take into a whole new direction.

You could also take several ideas from different places, and combine them into one new situation. What if your pets were magical, like Harry Potter? Now take that idea and start to expand on it.

Step 2: Story Basics

Now that you have an idea, it's time to write down the basics of what you will be telling. Who is the main character and what is his or her name? What does he or she like to do? Who are that person's friends, and what do they do together?

A good story features a main character with a problem to solve, and another character to help them solve it. So who will the other character be, and what will be the challenge that they overcome together?

Usually a problem either focuses on a person against another person, a person against nature, or a person against himself or herself.

Step 3: Story Details

Now that you have the basics down, create some more details around it. How old is your main character, and how did they happen to have this problem? Can they solve it on their own, even if they don't know it yet? Is there something they need to overcome, like a fear or doubt, before they realize that they could have solved this problem all along?

How is the secondary character going to help them? What do they know that the main character doesn't?

Most stories also have a villain who will try to stop the main character from achieving their goal. Who is this villain, and why do they want to prevent the hero from doing something?

A lot of stories also feature a teacher or mentor who is older or wiser than the friends, and will help them discover the solution to the problem that they are seeking. Who is this authority figure, what do they know, and how will they help out?

Step 4: Plot

Now that you know what's going to happen, you will want to make sure it happens at the right time and in the right place. This sequence of events is called a plot.

Focus on cause and effect: what happens, and then what happens as a result of that? What decisions do the characters make that take them forward into another situation?

What kinds of adventures will they have while struggling with the problem? Who comes in to reveal important information to the heroes? When does the villain create roadblocks to letting them find solutions? How do they get around that, and what adventures do they now have while reaching their goals?

In the end, what kind of punishment will the villain get when the heroes get their reward?

5. Write

Now that you know the flow of your story, and the details of what happens when, it's time to actually write it.

When telling the story, don't just do it in your own words. Let the characters talk too. Lots of dialogue and descriptions will keep the story moving and get your reader involved in the conversation.

During this step you should not worry about spelling or grammar mistakes, or what you should have written instead. Now your job is simply to write from the heart, and just let the words flow out onto your paper or computer screen.

6. Edit

Now that you have written your masterpiece, you have the chance to go back and revise it, or fix up any mistakes you might have.

Look for things like the characters all talking the same way. Perhaps it would be more interesting if each character had their own special words and phrases that only they use, so the reader knows immediately who is speaking and gets to know them as individual people.

Also make sure you have enough dialogue, as well as enough descriptions of the scenery and action, without telling too much. Remember, the reader likes to use their imagination too.

So follow these simple steps to write story after story, the easy way, without ever having to worry about what to write or how.

Happy writing!

What Makes Harry Potter So Popular?

Since the first Harry Potter book came out, millions of people have developed "Potter Madness" and it's not just the kids. On July 21, 2007, at every bookstore in the nation, at 12:01 AM, adults and children alike dressed up as Weasleys, Harry and Hermione, stood in line to buy the seventh - and last - book in the series. News stories telling even a little of the ending contained warning that "People who do not want to know the end of the book should not read any further."

It would be easy to pass Harry Potter off as a fad, something people got carried away with, like the pet rock or disco. Doing so however would be a mistake because there is something very deep and lasting in Harry Potter that his fans connect with, something more than just a fleeting attachment to that which is popular.

Understanding the appeal of Harry Potter starts with understanding where Harry came from. Most people know that Harry lived in a cupboard under the stairs with an aunt and uncle who despised him and a cousin who pummeled him - and then he realized he was a wizard, and a famous wizard at that.

The books then go on to describe how Harry then went to Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, where he had many adventures and made two very good friends. All of this is sure to appeal to children who feel left out or left behind. Who wouldn't fall in love with a story like that?

What is interesting is that Jane Eyre, the lead character in the famous Bronte novel, lived with an aunt and uncle who despised her and a cousin who pummeled her, and when she stood up to her cousin, she was sent off to school. It turned out to be a fairly horrible school, and her life was not as exotic as Harry's, but the connection is there.

Those who want to call Harry Potter "too fanciful" or "just a bunch of silliness" would do well to think about what this series really means to its readers. They are not just books. They are stories about the Boy Who Lived. The boy who lived through a terrible childhood, the boy who made friends when he had never had a friend, the boy who became a hero in spite of feeling very ordinary, the boy who mattered to people when he thought he did not matter at all.

And the magic does not really happen because someone flicks a wand. It is not about charms and transfiguration and expelliarmus and all the wizard talk. If they try to, even the hardest-hearted Muggle can relate to the idea that Harry Potter is a very real boy, in a very real situation, and he is doing the very best he can.

That is what appeals not only to young boys and girls, but also to adults of all ages - the idea that anyone who does the best they can is bound to end up on top, eventually. Everyone wants to live a life in which, in time, all is well.