This week Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin of writing.ie together with children’s book enthusiast Kim Harte and international bestselling author Deirdre Purcell, judged the TV3 Christmas Short Story competition – the results will be announced on Christmas Eve. There was a massive response to the competition, and many of the stories shared common themes and images. Knowing that there are some keen writers out there who didn’t make the shortlist, Vanessa asked me to give writing.ie visitors some tips on writing short stories for children, so whether you are writing for publication, to enter a competition, or simply want to write a story that will captivate your children this festive season, read on!
Because everyone is busy at Christmas time, particularly if they have children, I’ve kept these tips to bullet points:
- Before you start writing, think about your story and your characters. Go for a walk and mull it all over in your head; then grab a notebook and start scribbling down some ideas.
- Once you have mapped out your main characters (for a short story like this, don’t use too many main characters), and your plot, give your story an exciting or intriguing opening scene.
- Think about the setting of your story – where will it take place. And add details – icicles, food. Use your senses to add depth to the tale – smell, taste, touch. What does Christmas smell like?
- Conflict is vital in any story, even a children’s story. Without the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood wouldn’t be a very interesting story. Think of the favourite traditional tales for younger children – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, even Pinocchio – they are full of larger than life characters and HUGE emotions. Love, hate, revenge . . . Think big for your story too. Don’t be afraid to use strong emotions. Maybe Santa’s in mortal danger; maybe he’s stuck in a snow drift or has been captured by aliens – the sky’s the limit.
- Keep rewriting the story until you think it’s as good as you can make it. I rewrite each of my books up to ten times before handing them over to my editor.
- And finally ask a trusted, smart friend or colleague to look over your work before you submit. A second pair of eyes can make all the difference.
Good luck on your writing journey. If you are looking for an outlet for your children’s stories, check out The Caterpillar (click the link for submission information.) And keep an eye on writing.ie for news of a new online space for children’s stories opening early next year….
(c) Sarah Webb
For lots more writing tips see www.sarahwebb.ie