How do you craft a story for an audience? How can you encourage children to begin to think of themselves as authors rather than children in a literacy lesson? Key questions for teaching creative writing in primary schools and this week I discussed these ideas with a group of Year 5 children as we wrote the openings to our Star Wars stories.
The children agreed that a quick pace was important to writing and adventure story. Short sentences, using powerful verbs, limited descriptions - all things that help absorb the reader in a whirlwind of action.
What was trickier was knowing how to 'craft' the story for a reader who hasn't seen the planning process. How do we reveal just enough about a character, a place, a quest etc to root the reader in the story but keep them interested by what is NOT said? I call these 'suggestives' - how you suggest something to a reader without telling them. The origin of reading for inference that is taught in KS2, it is essentially writing for inference.
For example: "The young pilot gripped the controls with all her strength." - we learn our character is a pilot, a female, possibly a child and perhaps in trouble.
This approach can only really be taught by providing children for the opportunity to write for a real audience: someone other than their teacher. Publishing a book, sharing online, developing into an audio recording or film - all strategies I use and all real reasons to write. A writer can only really develop their craft when writing for strangers. Only then can the transition from scribe - one who simply writes - to a Force wielding Jedi who conjures and manipulates a narrative really begin.