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How to Teach Youth to Write Fiction––Adults Welcome, Too!

Every story begins with an idea.

Where do Ideas come from?

Where do I begin with a short story or novel?

Back in time with only a bow…


  • Ask “What If?” questions. What if your hero (main character) hopped a horse, taking only his/her bow, and when your hero stepped off the train he/she went back in time, forward into the future, or another world? Where would your hero be? Where would he/she go? What would he/she eat? Are there other people around? Any adults? What conflicts would arise? How would he/she respond?


  • What are your characters favorite activity? Sports? Art? Animal lover? Pretend your hero is in another town, country, or world, or in the future, and his/her favorite activity comes with him/her. What would your hero do? Who would you play him/her? How would your hero go about gathering members of a team? How is that working for your character? Does it come together smoothly? Are there obstacles in your way? How does he/she respond?


  • Where have I dreamed of going? Can your character go instead? Mexico? Australia. Hawaii? Alaska? Your hero gets to go. How? By self? With anyone? What adventure would your hero go on? Why? What would your character do? What would he/she eat? Where would he/she live? Is your hero safe? Is there trouble? How? Who? Why? How does your hero respond?
Where is your character headed?
  • How would you organize your ideas? A list? A web? Other diagrams? You will never know when one of these ideas will take you on a plot-twisting adventure! There are no wrong ideas. Put them on paper and begin writing your story.


  • What kind of characters do you like in the books you read? Girl? Guy? Funny? Serious? Strong? Smart? What would they look like? Say? Eat? Where would they go? What would they do? Why? What are their positive traits? Negative traits? (There will be more on traits later.)

Where do you keep these ideas?

How about in a journal.

It is easy to create a simple journal with cardstock and blank paper. What would I add?

  • Pictures of what your characters may look like.
  • Pictures of animals that would be in my story.
  • Pictures of tools I would use in my story.
  • Pictures of food, means of travel, clothing, places to stay I would use.
  • Timelines if my story is in the past. Other historical facts I have researched online and have printed out.
Where will the journey take you?

Where would I get these pictures from?

Draw them. Magazines. Photos I take and print. Google them online.

Here are steps to get your story going:

  1. Make a story journal. Decorate the cover with the theme of the story.
  2. List your characters.
  3. Make a story web of things your main character would: eat, wear, travel in, like, journey to, dream of, etc.
  4. Add pictures of what #3 looks like.
  5. Add some “What If?” ideas to your journal. What or where would your main character like to do or go?
  6. Have fun and be creative with your journal entries. Date them to keep you on track and moving forward.

Remember, there are no wrong ideas, dreams, and places to go.

Just jot them down and trust your writer self.




Next time we will cover the Five Elements of Fiction.

What are ideas for your future stories? Short-fiction? Novels?

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  1. These are all good suggestions, Carmen. When I was little, I used to love having my big sister tell me stories. Finally she said, “Tell yourself stories.” She got me started and I’ve never quit!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Mary, I’m certainly happy she suggested that you tell yourself stories because I love yours! And that’s what I love best is a wonderful storyteller.