how to write a short story for kids
From Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” to the bone-chilling works of Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allan Poe, short stories have always had the power to captivate and profoundly move us. But how to write a short story that makes such an impact — especially when you’ve never done it before?
Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan your story, just that you don’t need to throw all your effort into it. Writing in this form isn’t about complex, masterful plotting — it’s about feeling. On the subject of writing short stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Find the key emotion; this may be all you need.”
Writing a story isn’t always just about the words. Creating comic books, picture books and illustrated stories can use your artistic talents too. Or you could move from page to screen and get coding to create an animated tale.
Try your new story out on your parents. Type it up, print it out, make it look like a book and send it out to friends and family. Look out for creative writing competitions such as BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words competition that let children share their story with the biggest possible audience.
A story with no conflict can be rather dull. Help your child understand the concept of conflict in a story by revisiting some of their best-loved books. Explain to them when a conflict arises and encourage them to create one for their own story. They can even introduce a new character to shake things up!
Step 6: The Resolution
What you want to think of when titling your short story is this:
In order for a short story to be impactful, you have to know your character well. Having good character development is essential in short stories, since your characters often drive the story.
One of the most important elements of a short story for children is the development of character. As a children’s story writer, you will want to develop all the aspects of each character before writing the story. Consider what they look like, their personality traits, their likes and dislikes, the way they talk and their body language. It can help to develop a character based on someone you know. You can always change some qualities of the real person the character is based on, but starting with a familiar character can help you in the development process.
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5.Effective story setting
The author must decide who their target audience is before they write their book. Books for children aged five to eight require a lot of illustrations, and the language has to be simple and clear. As the age increases, one can use difficult vocabulary, and illustrations may not be required. Most children in the age group of eight to ten are first-time readers, and it is important to keep them engrossed for the duration of the book, hence, the length of the book should not be more than 25,000 words. Books for children aged between twelve and sixteen can include relatable teenage issues like outbursts, depression and addiction to technology, and the length of the book can go up to 50,000 words.
(From ‘Compere Lapin Pays a Price’ in A River of Stories volume 4, 2016)
Compere Lapin tried telling them that this was a bad habit…’
1. Do think visually. You don’t have to be an illustrator to do this. When you’re writing your story, creating its characters and planning the ‘action’ scenes, you will naturally work out and express what it looks like in your writing, so considering how or whether that will work as illustrations in Storytime magazine isn’t a huge leap. An example: we got a story about a baby animal desperate to grow up and be like its father, a stallion. It was told from the perspective of the baby and featured amusing scenes with the baby attempting (but failing) to be taller, which would have looked great. It was well written and I could sense an interesting ending was coming. The baby animal was a kitten – it would never grow up to be a big horse. A lovely idea, but it would have been incredibly hard for us to illustrate several pages of fun attempts to be taller without ruining the big reveal at the end. It was a nice story that we simply couldn’t work with. Another quick point on this subject – don’t litter your writing with visual pointers and directions for illustrations. It makes it difficult to read, and we’re happy to discuss this at a later date if necessary.
5. Don’t be too local. We publish in the UK, but we have subscribers all over the world, therefore, we do our best to feel global. Some of the stories we get in from US writers, for example, are so exclusively American in their references, particularly to food, activities and sport, that they just wouldn’t work for readers outside the US. For a truly great story, I will always try to get around it, but it’s good to think globally in the first place.
Young or reluctant children can shut down if expected to do too much writing. Independence will come in time. For now, know that it’s okay to take over the writing for your child.
Ask questions. For their lesson on humor, Amy’s son wanted to write about a monster. It’s good to ask questions such as: What funny situations might a monster find himself in? Could he get stuck in an elevator? Could he have trouble learning to skateboard? Or maybe he looks silly—a pink monster who wants to be scary but only ends up making people laugh.
You learn this genre by familiarizing yourself with the best. See yourself as an apprentice. Watch, evaluate, analyze the experts, then try to emulate their work.
Some publications and contests accept entries that long, but it’s easier and more common to sell a short story in the 1,500- to 3,000-word range.