creative writing

Andy Riley’s Top Tips for Comedy Writing

King Flashypants

Andy Riley is an award-winning comedy writer, accumulating accolades for his role in co-writing Veep and Gnomeo and Juliet, as well as writing a host of best-selling cartoons, including The Book of Bunny Suicides, and the comic strip Roasted in The Observer Magazine. His latest foray into children’s publishing is the outrageously funny King Flashypants and the Evil Emperor (and you can read my review here). To inspire you to do the same, Andy has kindly agreed to share his serious tips for writing something funny. 

Although I am fairly new to children’s books, I am an old hand at drawing cartoons and writing comedy scripts for TV and film. So old that 13 September 2016 marks my Silver Jubilee. The very first time I got something broadcast was on that date, in 1991. A spoof vox-pop about joy-riding for the Radio Four’s topical sketch show Week Ending. One minute of material, split two ways with my writing partner Kevin Cecil: that bagged me £14. Yes, I knew then that I was on the big script-writing money train.

I’ve discovered that writing a humorous children’s book isn’t so different from cartoons and scripts. Some fundamentals apply across all of the art form. So here is my silver jubilee list of tips on writing comedy, for books or comics or TV or radio or film or whatever…

  • Give yourself the freedom to have a lot of bad ideas. This is important. If you have one idea, then immediately try and work out whether or not it is any good, it’s like driving with the brakes on. You’re going to keep questioning your thoughts as soon as you have them. Let yourself run free for a bit. Think up ten or twenty ideas around that same theme. Then change your mental hat, enter ‘critic’ mode, and pick out which one of your ideas is any good. The ratio of bad ideas to good ones is something like 10 to 1. Sometimes a bit less, sometimes a bit more.
  • Have a go at doing it in collaboration with a friend, or at least someone that you can stand being in a room with for a couple of hours. Look at the credits of TV shows. A serious drama about an alcoholic cop is normally written by one person. Comedy programs are much more likely to be written by two or three people. The reason is that if you’re working on something all day by yourself, it’s not too hard to remember what is tragic, but it’s a little tougher to get a good handle on what is funny. You might find yourself coming up with something you really like, then being struck by the thought that you’re the only person in the world who would find that amusing. You may be right. But if you’re with somebody else and you make that person laugh, then the chances of lots more people finding it funny are quite good. You laugh more and have more fun. Also, you have to split the money two ways. Swings and roundabouts.
  • People get distracted. This was always true, but since Steve Jobs put a smartphone in everybody’s pocket, you’re fighting against that. The Internet. The single most distracting thing ever created. So you have to give people a good reason to carry on paying attention to whatever it is you’ve made. If you are writing a comedy script, this means making sure that each scene ends with some little twist, some compelling reason why somebody has to keep watching at least for another couple of minutes. If you keep doing that, they may even watch to the end. And then you’ve won. In books, particularly children’s books, which are read chapter by chapter and on consecutive nights, you have to do it by throwing in a little cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. Grab people! Intrigue them! Thrill them! And don’t let them go! Sometimes I think it’s much easier for people writing cop dramas. They just kill a teenager at the start of the episode, and that’s enough to keep people involved for the next hour. Comedy writers have to work harder.
  • If you want to be funny, get an idiot in there. This isn’t an absolute rule, but it works, over and over again. Baldrick in Blackadder. Dougal in Father Ted. Doberman in the Phil Silvers show. You can make your own list of these I’m sure. In the King Flashypants universe I covered my bases by making sure there are two idiots– Megan the Jester, and Globulus, the evil emperor’s assistant.
  • Double takes aren’t very funny. Don’t write them in. Nobody does them in real life. Falling over, on the other hand, nearly always works. Get someone falling over. Then standing up and falling over again.
  • Some lines work their way into scripts or manuscripts because they are useful from getting you from A to B in a story, but they are wizened old cliches which must be murdered on sight. They include the following:

– What is this place?

– You just don’t get it, do you?

– Why are you telling me this?

– But that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!

– Showtime.

– That’s gotta hurt.

– That went well.

– (Person insults somebody else, then says…) He’s standing right    behind me, isn’t he?

  • Try to write stories where characters are forced into situations where they have to break their own self-imposed rules. That always works.
  • It doesn’t hurt to have two or more projects on the go at the same time. When you’re stuck on one, you can go back to another.
  • Go swimming or do some back exercises. Writing and drawing tends to be sedentary so it’s not good for your body. That said, there are ways around this these: I write the first drafts of my books by dictating them into Siri as I walk down the street. I’m dictating this blog entry right now, pacing around the kitchen. It’s better for your back, your hands, your shoulders.
  • Keep your receipts. Writers and artists are notoriously bad at admin and paperwork. And anyone who says “find something you love to do and you never have to work a day in your life” probably never had to do their own tax returns. You do.
  • Funny hats are good.
  • Remember that lists of comedy tips get less useful once they have passed the halfway point.
  • Listen to people on public transport. A fragment of conversation you pick up one might be the germ of an idea for a sketch, a book, a character, a show. It’s happened to me lots of times.
  • However good you think you are, you will need some editing. I’ve had all kinds of editing on my books, TV shows and films – some incredibly good, some quite bad. You learn to value the really good ones.
  • There is never a point where you’ve “made it.” It’s always a fight. And even if you do “make it,” you can and will fall out of favour again some time. A career in this sort of work is a marathon, not a sprint, though you do end up having to sprint a lot for deadlines. It’s a sprinty marathon.
  • You might make money, you might not, but so long as you’re getting into it for the right reasons – because you like turning out this kind of work – you’ll be able to weather the tough times.
  • Don’t work all the time! Look after yourself. Learn how to knock off.

Feel free to ignore any or all of these guidelines if something is really working. Because that’s what counts, really.

With thanks to Andy Riley for his brilliant writing comedy tips. I have five signed copies of King Flashypants to giveaway. Find my competition tweet on twitter today @minervamoan. Winners picked at random. Competition closes Sunday 11th September at 23.59 GMT. If you don’t win – you can buy the book here. (Also available on audio)

 

Scholastic Sale

These days, as traditional as Christmas pudding, is the transition from sentimental Christmas adverts to January sales promotions.

I’m delighted that Scholastic approached me for two reasons – firstly in their capacity as a publishing group, as they have produced a great title for reluctant readers, and also because they have started their amazing sale with up to 88% discounts on fabulous children’s books (from a variety of publishers).

create your own alien adventure

Create Your Own Alien Adventure: It’s OK! We’re going to save the planet! By Andrew Judge and Chris Judge is an adventure story in which the reader both fills in the gaps (literally, with a pencil and colouring crayons), and also chooses the twists the story will take by turning to the page of their choice. Building on those classic ‘choose your own adventure’ stories, this title goes further because the reader is invited to draw on the book.

With Daisy, the heroine, the reader tracks an invading alien back to his crashed space ship and adventures with him into space. Except that by doing so, the reader has inadvertently led the alien army to Earth, and now the reader must protect it – with Daisy and some characters (of the reader’s own inventing). Not only is it truly interactive (the reader is also invited to tear certain pages), but it’s a great tool for reluctant readers to conquer a book, read a story, follow instructions, and participate in a story arc.

Chris Judge is an award-winning picture book illustrator (Tin, The Lonely Beast, and most recently The Snow Beast), and is joined by his brother Andrew. The illustrations are simple so that a young reader doesn’t feel intimidated by them.

The language too is simple, but humorous, with plenty of eye-catching typeface changes, enlargements etc, to keep anyone interested, as well as some great dialogue.

I’ve already shown the title to two parents of reluctant readers who were both eager to obtain a copy of their own. Luckily for them, this title, retailing at £5.99, is in the Scholastic January Sale for £2.99, and you can buy it here, and it will be followed in April by a further title in the series, Create Your Own Spy Mission.

If tempted by the TV showings of David Walliams children’s book entertainment, you can buy his new title, Grandpa’s Great Escape, in the sale at £8.99, as well as some Early Reader Horrid Henry’s including Christmas Play at £2.99. Scholastic are also great at selling packs, and this non-fiction one caught my eye – narrative non-fiction so that you learn as you read a story – I Survived pack of five books at £9.99.

What’s more every order over £10 earns 20% back in FREE BOOKS for a school or nursery of your choosing. For this reason, I am directing you to the sale site here, rather than my usual referral site.

Poetry: It Doesn’t Have to Be Boring

Lend a Handstars in jarsWerewolf Club Rules

So it’s one thing buying your children fiction or non-fiction. But how about poetry? Have you ever bought your children a poetry book? Recited poetry to them? You definitely have, but you probably don’t know it. When you told your baby a nursery rhyme you were reciting poetry. When you bought them a picture book, you were buying them poetry. I bet The Snail and the Whale would look and most importantly, sound great written out as a poem without the pictures (sorry Axel Scheffler).

Poetry has had a bad reputation. It’s often labelled as boring, reflected in our recollections of poring over the Romantic Poets at school and trying to extract meaning in each word, each line. But in today’s age, we should be embracing poetry. Is expressing ourselves in a 140 character tweet that different from expressing an opinion in a haiku? Is a poem of rhyming couplets any different from a rap song? In the same way we disregard rules of grammar and syntax in text messages, poets do the same with poetry. E. E.  Cummings didn’t bother with capital letters at all. In fact, by using poetry as a means of expressing emotion, we can let children strip away all the rules and regulations of writing, and concentrate on the pure emotion, expression, opinion and feelings within the language. For children who struggle to read a large amount of text, the jumble and randomness of poetry can be hugely appealing. They can interpret and describe what they see and hear and feel in an artistic way rather like drawing, but using words instead; a mood board of words.

Lend a Hand

Lend a Hand by John Frank, illustrated by London Ladd
This landed on my desk a while ago; a large hardback with full page illustrations and small quiet poems alongside. It exudes a calm even from the cover; the illustrations are unusual for a children’s book – they are portraits of ordinary people doing ordinary things in acrylic paints, realistic and fairly muted in colour, yet they suit the poems in this collection. Each poem depicts an individual making a difference to their community, from the child planting trees in her street and the child clearing rubbish from a communal stream, to the child who helps another at P.E instead of laughing, and the child who befriends a lonely elderly gentleman. John Frank has not only captured the magic of these small incidental acts of kindness, but also the different points of view. The child collecting rubbish remarks that she didn’t make the mess – perhaps someone else should be tidying it not her – the child who watches the rest of the class nearly fall over with laughter at the ‘klutz’ in PE. I particularly liked the poem called ‘No Charge’, which shows how one good deed deserves another. There are other excellent ideas hidden within the poems – in ‘No Bounds’, the multiplication tables suddenly make sense to a child when she spends time quilting with her grandmother.
Although highly American in language and style, I think these poems are particularly plaintive and appeal to a wide audience. The illustrations show a good diversity too. Ages 6+. You can buy a copy here or see the Amazon sidebar.

stars in jars

Stars in Jars by Chrissie Gittins
A book which I suppose is what you imagine when you think of a collection of children’s poetry. Silly poems, heartfelt poems, school poems, worry poems, poems about everyday things and about fantastical imaginings. It’s perfect for showing children how poetry can stretch the boundaries of our language and grammar, can mix vocabulary – can use the space on the page to define the poem. These are poems to get lost in. Ones that I particularly like include ‘Me, Myself, and I’, which does rhyme, although not many in the collection do, and points out the importance of self in simple, clear repetitive language. There is much poignancy in ‘The Way He Used to Be’ about watching your sibling grow up and be at a slight distance from you; as well as the very simple ‘Three’ about three best friends. It’s a great little riddle and lesson to learn. My favourite is ‘Lullaby’, which implores the child to pack away their worries, or concerns or frustrations and embrace the night as tomorrow is another day. It’s told beautifully, with wonderful imagery playing with childhood illusions of the ‘cheesy moon’ and preoccupations with homework and fights, but is a grown-up way to approach bedtime thoughts. The whole collection contains silly poems too, but the ones with truisms stand out. One to be treasured and dipped into again and again. Chrissie Gittins is no stranger to poetry, having been shortlisted for the CLPE Poetry Awards on more than one occasion, and working with the BBC many times.You can buy it here, or on the Amazon sidebar.

Werewolf Club Rules

Werewolf Club Rules, poems by Joseph Coelho
A scintillating collection of poems about the primary school environment, and also about language and writing. These may be simple in tone, but they demand to be spoken. Joseph Coelho is a performance poet, and it shows in his writing. From ‘Onomatopoeia’, exemplifying that words that sound sounds need to be spoken, to ‘Skateboarding’, where the rhythm of the poem belies the speed and force of the skateboard, the words Joseph uses can almost be tasted in the mouth – rolling around on the tongue like taste explosions. Many are told from a child’s point of view, which makes them all the more appealing to the age group – from observations about teachers to the taste and feel of a jam tart. Like Chrissie Gittins, there is some playfulness with the space on the page, but it’s mainly the language in this collection that pulls it above the rest. Not only does Joseph explore vocabulary within classroom depictions –his description of the teacher Miss Flotsam and her seeming life experience:
“Miss Flotsam had climbed peaks
circled by vultures,
waded rivers with unseen bottoms,”
but he also uses language to explore language itself in ‘Collective Pool Nouns’:
“A school of pools
a loud of bubbles
A soak of splashes’.
My favourites were ‘If All the World Were Paper’, which cleverly explores wrapping a baby sister in bubble wrap and smoothing out the creases of a grandfather, and the stunning and unusual imagery of a piece of artwork in ‘Make it bigger, Eileen.’ This has been shortlisted for the CLPE 2015 Poetry Award. You can buy it here, or on the Amazon sidebar.

Towards the end of the summer I’ll revisit poetry, as I’ve just been sent the most powerful young teen book I’ve read for a while – and it’s all in verse. I can’t wait to tell you about it. In the meantime, you can see that from the very young to teen, poetry is a great way into story and narrative.

How To Write Your Best Story Ever by Christopher Edge

how to write your best story ever

As a writer I am constantly overwhelmed by the amount of advice out there for budding authors. Blogs, podcasts, books, individual tweets, facebook groups. The advice goes on and on. In the end, I always feel if you want to write, sit down and WRITE. However, for the youngest among us a blank piece of paper can be quite frightening and a little guidance can help. Christopher Edge, author of fiction such as the Penelope Tredwell series, has written a sensational learning accompaniment to creative writing. In fact, it made me revisit some of my own writing and proved an invaluable resource for my daughter, who is fast rivalling me for story-telling prowess.

Firstly, thanks to imaginative and colourful illustrations, it doesn’t look like a learning resource at all. It comes across as a fun, informative and creative non-fiction children’s title. The first half covers a range of different ideas and definitions and starts with how to get inspired. It draws on the very powerful question ‘what if?’, as a start to using imagination, and also explains that the simplest newspaper headlines can inspire a novel. It highlights making notes, using dreams and just having a go, even if you don’t know where the story will end up. In between the hints and inspiration are informative notes about grammar and vocabulary. Christopher Edge outlines setting a scene, delineating a character, and how to incorporate setting and character into the action. He explains tenses and why not to mix them up, how to open a story, incorporate dialogue, introduce red herrings, how to end – and then how to edit. This is a really important skill, and something that’s easily forgotten in the rush of excitement brought by finishing a story. Re-examining your own text though can be crucial to making improvements and Christopher handles it well with a web of questions to help edit.

There is a huge amount of detail and interesting pieces set out in fun ‘inspiration stations’, such as fabulous titles, quotes illuminating how a character is portrayed in dialogue, as well as little circular bubbles with hints “If you can’t tell which character is speaking you might need to change the dialogue”, and ‘red alerts’ to explain difficult grammatical constructs.

The second half trots through the different genres, from adventure through crime, horror, mystery, comedy to writing about love, history, sports and so on. It is certainly comprehensive. And for the last spread alone, it inspired me to make it book of the week – the last page gently explains that writers can find their inspiration from other writers. Reading is the key. It highlights some great opening lines from children’s fiction – including two of my personal favourites – “When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news” Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz, and “There is no lake at Green Camp Lake.” Holes, Louis Sachar. If it inspires the next Horowitz or Sachar, Christopher Edge has done a really great job. You can purchase it from Amazon on the sidebar, or from Waterstones here

With thanks to OUP for my review copy.

 

Tom with a ‘Laugh’ in His Name: An Interview with Tom McLaughlin

Accidental Prime Minister mr tiddles

In the same way that our politicians are touring the country to garner our votes, Tom McLaughlin, author of The Accidental Prime Minister, is touring the country to inspire children to read and write and draw. For Tom, inspiration starts with a blank piece of paper. “Books can spring from a doodle, or a mood – a moment you’re trying to create, and then you wrap a picture or a narrative around that. When I’m writing I think about drawing, and when I’m drawing I think about writing. I tend to plan out my books like a spider chart – mapping it out pictorially.”

Of course, Tom didn’t start his career writing books – he started, somewhat aptly for someone promoting The Accidental Prime Minister, drawing political cartoons. “It’s similar to what I’m doing now; drawing pictures and writing jokes, but of course with a book you get much more time to think about and play with ideas. Also, the world is quite a miserable place, and with a book it doesn’t have to be based in reality – so you can have the queen wearing roller skates!” This suits Tom well, as he’s never far away from a joke, inspired by anything from TV to podcast, Monty Python to John Oliver, Father Ted to The Daily Show. He even has the word ‘laugh’ in his name, a fact his publisher has highlighted by colouring it a different colour on the front of The Accidental Prime Minister.

He likes satire, and clever comedy, although admits that in writing for children, he does include plenty of fart jokes too. In fact, I was never sure during the interview quite how much Tom was joking: “If I were PM for a day I would make it compulsory for all cars to be fitted with dogs. Because there is nothing nicer than walking down the street, and seeing a car with the window down and the dog poking its head out, tail wagging in the wind. It just cheers me up. It would just make the world a better place…oh and world peace – that one as well.” In all seriousness, Tom does think that children need to have some knowledge of what’s going on around them. “I think it is important for children to know about the world. As a family, we always used to sit down and watch the news together. Knowing about the world can only make you a better and more rounded person.” Although he admits that writing The Accidental Prime Minister wasn’t a ruse to get children into politics: “It was never meant to introduce politics to children – that was a by-product of what I wanted to do. I wanted to write about the most famous boy in the world, and I was trying to think of how to do that. Should he invent something or be rich? But I wanted him to be powerful and to have a voice – and that’s how the politics thing came about. I liked the idea of him being PM by mistake, although I had to bend the constitutional laws slightly to do that.”

story machine

Tom is following this with The Accidental Secret Agent, although with different characters. He’s also busy creating more picture books as well, following in the footsteps of The Diabolical Mr Tiddles and The Story Machine. Tom told me how he enjoys working within both media: “I like the illustrative quality of picture books, there’s something really beautiful about creating that world. With The Story Machine it was all about creating a mood – although it’s hard because you have to agonise over every single word – it’s not like writing a novel in which you can just go for it.” Surprisingly, as he is dyslexic, Tom found he liked the ‘going for it’ with novel writing despite remembering reading and writing being difficult as a child: “It knocked my confidence for six. I hated the idea of reading in front of people, in front of the teacher. It was terrifying and you felt kind of stupid. I was put on the table with the slow learners and told I was lazy. I was tested for dyslexia, so the school knew about it, but didn’t do anything. I think things are better nowadays.”

Even doing readings of his own books makes Tom nervous: “I still mess up reading my own books – so for The Accidental Prime Minister I read the same passage because I’ve sort of learnt it off by heart. Also, I have good days and bad days and that’s really weird.” He’s learnt certain techniques to help though, and admits writing is easier than reading. “I audio book stuff, and listen to the radio, and I’ve learnt to think about something else while I’m reading – almost like not looking at the words too intently – reading slightly above the line I’m reading so that I’m looking at it out of the corner of my eye – that makes things a little easier.” The strategies help him, and encourage him to speak out about it to children. During our school visit, he told his audience about his dyslexia, and how it hasn’t held him back as an author: “You can still do anything. What’s important as an author is not so much the pictures and words as having an idea and having something to say.”

Tom also treats his keyboard like a piano; music inspires him. In fact, music resonates throughout The Accidental Prime Minister because the chapter headings are all song titles – London Calling was originally the title of the first chapter – although this was dropped in the end, and it became ‘I don’t like Mondays’: “Being at home in front of the computer 12 hours a day drawing or writing you need something, so I listen to a lot of music. If I’m writing I tend to listen to quite spiky, anarchic jazz because it’s like playing the piano on the keyboard. You don’t want any words though when you’re writing. I used to have classical music but you ended up feeling quite sleepy.” Perhaps the sleepiness inspired his next picture book, The Cloudspotter, publishing 18th June. The cover has a dreamlike quality – and the book is inspired by using the shapes of clouds to make images. Judging from his talent at changing mere pen strokes into full-blown political caricatures of the children at this latest school visit, Tom’s pictures and jokes look likely to win him many votes.cloudspotter

Quick Fire Round:

Ears or eyes: eyes

Majority or coalition: coalition

Tea or biscuits – Earl grey tea

Jetpack or parachute – jetpack

Cat or dog – cat

Computer or paper – blank piece of paper

Reluctant Writers

It was late in the holidays, with work to be done
Going back to school soon, the end of the fun
My son scratched his head and gave a big sigh
I’ve got to write a story, to give it a try

The problem he said was creating a story
His teachers would never give him the glory
He was averaging c’s in his paper he said
He simply had nothing flowing from his head

Then, wait just a sec, I said with a yelp,
There’s this book I know, I think it could help
Called Descriptosaurus with characters and stuff
It could pad out your stories without any fluff

With settings and adjectives and adverbs and things
You could write about dragons and monsters and kings
It could give you emotions; happy, evil or sad
With heroes and villains; the good and the bad

Creatures with wings, arms, legs and heads,
Buildings with secret stairs, armchairs and beds
Landscapes with mountains, volcanoes and bogs
Atmospheres with lightning, misty skies, fogs

In conjunction with that though, I said just remember
There’s no substitute for reading Jan to December
With Descriptosaurus you can make quite a start
But you’ll also need to use what’s in your heart.

Many parents have asked me which books their child should read to improve their creative writing and enhance their vocabulary. There’s no magic solution to writing – otherwise we’d all be published authors, but there are tools that can help. The two issues that come up most often are 1) the creative process – a story with which to work – which comes from the child’s imagination. Some children are better at this than others – and many who themselves read voraciously will find it easier to come up with an idea. And 2) vocabulary and setting. It sometimes seems that those who devour non-fiction more readily than fiction can have the stronger vocabulary. For vocabulary and setting, I’ve found a book that might be able to help.

Descriptosaurus

Descriptosaurus by Alison Wilcox is an interesting resource, marketed mainly at the education industry, although it does have a place in the home if used correctly. It aims to frame that first ‘idea’ or expand vocabulary into a rounded piece of creative writing – offering help with settings, character traits and emotions. It helps to break down language into its different grammatical components – explaining phrasing, adjectives and verbs and using them in conjunction with landscapes, places, and characters so that the child has a starting point and can then progress to a story from their own imagination with the tools in place to help them. The book divides up into settings, characters, and creatures. It’s an expensive resource for parents, but can be a useful addition to a classroom environment.

Show Me a Story

Show Me a Story by Emily Neuburger is also targeted primarily at parents or carers, but with a less academic slant. It is American, so the store suggestions at the back are redundant for the UK reader, but the rest of the book is illuminating and inspiring. Initially the start of the book is aimed at the parent, informing them how to start a discussion on narratives, to encourage inventive minds and demonstrate how children use stories to explore emotions and questions about the world, to solve problems and to answer moral dilemmas. Emily Neuburger then goes on to explore how to encourage storytelling – visiting inspirational places, starting a journal etc. She then describes different craft activities to help children form a story and storylines, from ‘story pools’ to collages, blocks, dice and games. She brings to mind the Simon and Garfunkel song (America) of sitting in a train carriage imagining what all the other people do for a living, exotic or otherwise, making up stories wherever you are.

write your own story bookwrite and draw your own comics

The Usborne Write Your Own Story Book is a user-friendly book, spiral bound to lay flat, which encourages writing within it. It uses the same sorts of tools in a more basic way – setting and character suggestions, and possible story openers. In a way though, it is quite prescriptive – the blank pages have titles at the top that encourage the child to write within a certain genre: telling a story from a given picture, continuing a story already started, creating your own fairy tale, writing a story about time travel (all good training but more limiting perhaps). There are handy tips in the margins too: explaining motive, questions to ask, super verbs, sights and sounds etc. The crucial difference between this and Descriptosaurus, is whereas the latter looks like an academic text book, Usborne’s looks like a fun book to play with – which will help to get the creative juices flowing for enjoyment. Usborne’s more recent title is Write and Draw Your Own Comics, which is similar but of course with the drawing element as well – explaining speech bubbles, sound effects, exploring action drawings, and moving the story along frame by frame. Both encourage a love for writing.

Write Your Own Story2

These are all great tools for starting out, but again, for me there is no substitute for reading as much as possible and also discussion about stories with your child – be it stories from books, newspapers, TV, family history and the real world. It’s important to share views on what might happen next, why a character acted how they did, what emotions you feel after reading or watching something. From this, children can gather the tools needed to create their own wonderful imaginative adventures.

You ChooseYou Choose2

If completely stuck for a starting point for discussion, one useful book is You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart. For a while it was given free to toddlers in the Bookstart book pack in the UK, and although it is lovely to look at with a toddler, it is also an ever-useful tool to spark ideas for creative writing, in much the same way as the more advanced titles above. Each page aims to provide a different ‘choice’; where would you go, where would you live, how would you travel – all excellent tools for setting a story.

Happy writing!