Writing Fiction

From Poems to Short Stories to Novels

Writing fiction can be a wonderful creative outlet. This is true for creative children as well as creative adults, and it's especially true of the verbally gifted, who love words and love to play with them. Creative writing makes much use of figurative language, which is one way to play with words and ideas. It's not that other forms of writing don't use figurative language, but it's a major part of expression and description in creative writing.

If your child is a budding author, provide her with the information and tools she needs. What makes a poem, a poem, for instance? What is the difference between a short and a novella or a novella and a novel? What are the challenges in writing a novel? How does a writer manage all their ideas and their work load?

Poetry Writing

Mark Flanagan offers this brief definition of poetry: "Poetry is an imaginative awareness of experience expressed through meaning, sound, and rhythmic language choices so as to evoke an emotional response." In that short definition, he goes on to say that it may also make use of meter and rhyme, but he also has a much lengthier description of poetry. A definition of poetry is very difficult to pin down since it is such an individual form of expression. We recognize a poem when we see one, but it's hard to define (like gifted kids!)

Perhaps what's important is to understand is that poetry is personal, rhythmic, and emotive.

Some children, especially younger ones, may think that a poem has to have a specific form and has to rhyme. A great poetry book for kids is The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury by Jack Prelutsky. It has a variety of poems, some with rhyme and some without. Prelutsky has another book, Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry, in which he gives advice to kids ages 8 - 12 on the process of writing poetry.

I don't mean advice on rhythm, meter, and the like, but advice on how to come up with ideas for poems and how to manage and expand on those ideas.

Poetry Tips and Fun: Scholastic Writing with Writers
Poetry Contest: American Library of Poetry

Short Story Writing

The best way to understand what a short story is, is to understand its parts. The parts of a short story include point of view, setting, conflict, and climax. And of course we can't forget about the plot and characters! The plot is the story line. It is what happens from beginning to end and the characters are those who participate in the events in the plot. But what makes a story a good story? It can't just be a purposeless series of events. A story must have some kind of "tension." The tension is what we get from the rising action in the story.

One thing we need in creative writing, particularly in short stories and novels is dialogue. Writing dialogue is a real art. Without dialogue the characters can't come to life. And without good dialogue, the characters can appear one-dimensional and unrealistic. Dialogue is also one of the ways that a writer can develop a character

Short Story Ideas: Generating Story Ideas
Short Story Tips: Children's Story Writing Tips
Short Story Contests: Young Author's Guide
Online Short Story Publisher: Amazing Kids Magazine (also has some contests)

Writing Novels

Sometimes an idea for a short story is really better suited to a full fledged novel!Young beginning writers, though, might be really need to write a novella rather than a novel. Basically, a novella is just a story that is longer than a short story, but not long enough to be a novel. In any case, some stories just cry out to be longer than a novel. How can you or your child know? 

One of the difficulties in writing something longer than a short story is trying to control all the story elements -- the plot twists and turns, the characters, as well as what the characters said to one another and what happens in each chapter.

This task can be made easier with software designed to help manage all these tasks. One example of such software is Storybook. This is a free program that looks quite useful. Older kids who are wanting to write a longer work might like this program.

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