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The Whole Story

In a new venture for Chelsea Young Writers, eight children aged from 8 – 10 years came to Clementi House for four consecutive mornings to explore the most important elements of narrative and write a complete story from beginning to end. It was my privilege to be their tutor.

With the exception of two sisters, the children didn’t know each other beforehand and so naturally the first morning they were a little reticent, but it didn’t last long. The group soon gelled and readily began to share their thoughts, interests and experiences.

We started each day with an instinctive written response to a short piece of music, just to help settle and establish a mood of creativity and concentration. After this I introduced the element of story we’d be looking at each day – ideas and character, character and settings, plot and structure, and finally style – followed by some discussion and then an activity or two. Of particular popularity were the brief dramas that the children created and acted out in pairs – two aliens visiting a supermarket for the first time, the fairy queen showing a new fairy around her palace, a salty sea captain giving instructions to her cabin boy…

With each day, the stories that began from ideas arising from the children’s own interests, dreams and experiences developed and improved, as lessons were absorbed and techniques honed. All of these children were very capable – and some very gifted – writers, each with his or her own strengths and weaknesses. I encouraged them not only to be writers, but editors of their own work, to challenge themselves to make changes, not for their own sake but to genuinely improve their stories. Even experienced widely published authors need to be good, tough editors to make the most of their talent and tell their story in the best way possible.

In the end, all of the children in the group had a complete story, which they shared on the final day. I was pleased with all of these – but delighted first and foremost that the children had had a good time, made some new friends and (hopefully!) learnt a few things too.

Have a great summer!

Alan Durant is a CYW author-in-residence, and has written over twenty books about sports and games of one kind or another – from football to Gameboys! Alan recently showed  young writers how to create stories based on the sports, games and leisure activities that they are passionate about. You can follow Alan on Twitter.

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