A lot of my students initially tell me they are ‘bad at writing’ and ‘can’t do it’; ‘don’t know what to write’. They are also fed up with lists of things to include in creative writing: complex vocabulary; adverbials of time, place and manner; metaphors, similes, etc.
I use games, art, drama and music as a way in to writing. Kids’ eyes light up when they see paint or plasticine on the table in their writing lesson. Are these relevant to writing? Yes!
To start stories, you need creative magic. It can come from anywhere: from a place you visited; from a rock you like the feel of; from the smell of damp leaves; from your dream last night. Some students find it easily, but many, when confronted with a blank page, don’t.
I help them find it and then channel it into their writing. We model plasticine characters and imagine what they are like – what do they want? What do they dream about? Do they like broccoli? We paint/collage settings and jump into them like in Mary Poppins. What can we see? What can we smell? Is it raining? Is the rain hot or cold? We laugh about things we imagine like rotten egg smells and dog poo, floating people and giant trees.
Once they have come up with a place and a character then their imaginations take them into the story. They get excited; ideas flow easily; they realise they are in control of the writing even though they don’t know how the story ends. This is the creative process!
And then they edit the story. We find any gaps in the plot; we discuss exciting similes and metaphors etc.; we question constantly in order to make the world of the story more real. But now they’re enthusiastic and involved; happy to do it. Because now they’re committed to their characters and to their ideas. It’s all from them; not from a list.