I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it forever: we are all creative. From cooking to clothing, dancing to decorating, we just need to give our creativity the chance to come out and play. Over the past few months, I’ve written here about several artsy endeavors. In this month’s column, I’d like to encourage you to get creative with words.
Now please, don’t be intimidated by the idea of “writing.” The activities I’ve shared here are fun and interesting and, enjoyed alone or better yet, with your kids, will promote an affinity for words. And if you or your child already love writing and playing with words, the following are super writer’s block busters and thought stimulators. So, pick up a pencil and a journal or open a new document in Word. Give yourself permission to have fun and go for it!
Take turns picking about 5 to 8 random letters of the alphabet. Then everyone has to come up with a sentence using words that start with those letters sequentially. These always end up silly. For example, we selected the letters P E S R A F N, and the resulting sentence was “People everywhere should run away frantically nodding.”
Try your hand at making short sentences much more interesting. Stretching out a sentence is a way to add details and provide more information. Start with a very basic sentence. Then use who, what, where, when and why questions to stretch it out. We started with the following super short sentence: It jumped. Next, we applied the sentence stretching elements and the final sentence became: A big rabbit jumped onto our patio this afternoon when he was startled by a loud dog barking.
Every story needs a conflict of some sort, whether it is between two characters or within oneself. This quick trick will give you a guideline to follow as you plan the conflict in a short story. Make four columns on a piece of paper with the titles Somebody, Wants, But and So. Then, working with your main character, write down what she wants, what the problem is, and what she does about it. For example, in my picture book, Kaci Keeps Dancing (shameless plug), Kaci wants to perform a flawless solo, but she forgets the steps. So, she recalls all her rehearsals, dedication and inner strength and finishes the dance strong.
Poetry is not a four-letter word. It gets a bad rap because so many of us find it intimidating. One thing to remember is that poetry does not have to rhyme. If you skip this notion, you will avoid forced rhymes which end up sounding silly because they focus more on rhyming sounds than on a well-thought-out idea. For this activity, a fun one to do with a group, one person calls out categories, and the others jot down the first thing they think of that fits into the category. For example, you might hear, “a type of flower,” and jot down magnolia. You hear “a number from one to 50” and write 27. I usually use ten categories per round, then the group selects eight words from those they’ve written down and writes a poem that includes those eight words. You can write a poem as a group or each participant can write their own poem. It’s completely up to you! I’m certain you can come up with your own categories, but here are a few to get you started: a scent, a sound, a state, a word used in cooking, an animal and a type of tree.
I hope you’ll try some of these activities and, in doing so, exercise your creative writing muscles. As always, feel free to share your experiences with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!