Guest post by Hayley Zelda.
Hayley Zelda is a writer and marketer at heart. She’s written on all the major writing platforms and worked with a number of self-published authors on marketing books to the YA audience. She loves working with teen writers and working with schools on literacy programs.
Writing is a craft that cannot be easily taught and from a young age, many students associate writing with homework and essays. By the time high school swings around, many teachers tell me they’ve given up on getting the majority of students excited about writing.
But I believe there is always a way to motivate and inspire young minds to get excited about writing. After all, storytelling has been in existence since the beginning of the human race. And who doesn’t love stories?
If it were a simple task, I probably wouldn’t be writing a blog post about it. Through trial and error, I’ve found a number of ways to help teens have fun while writing. This doesn’t mean that every teen will fall in love with writing forever, but at least some positive association can be built with the act of writing.
Here are some of my top tips on how to get young people excited about writing.
1. Use writing prompts relevant to what young people care about.
Writing prompts are a great way to get creative juices flowing. The more relevant you make the prompt, the stronger the response you’ll get from a student.
If you know that your teen can’t stop talking about One Direction, make up a writing prompt about One Direction! It can be anything from legos to dragons, to cars, fashion or makeup. Find what makes your teen go crazy and feed it to them as a writing prompt. You’d be amazed by how in-depth he or she will go!
2. Get silly with the stories!
Take out the association of seriousness and formality included with writing. Get silly! Writing about unicorns pooping! Write about llamas! Write about cats with hats and birds with arms! Whatever you want!
Throw out the conventional and have fun with it!
3. Inspire them with famous people who write.
There are a lot of celebs and famous people all over the world who have turned to writing. And this is not just limited to memoirs and biographies. Using the fact that their idols write is sure to turn a few teens’ heads!
Jay Z, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Hart, Barack & Michelle Obama, Tina Fey, Tyler Oakley, Shane Dawson, PewDiePie, and many others have all written books! You can find a great list on BookRiot of celebrity written books to see if there are any celebrities or YouTubers your teens like.
If their idols think writing is “cool”, why shouldn’t they?
If they struggle with long form works, you can try having them check out book summary apps and sites. Blinkist is a great option for a wide range of short summaries that can be great teasers and inspire your teen to write more. Wired For Youth has some good summaries for free too that are celebrity written.
We all love emulating our heroes. One we read something from our heros, it becomes easier to write ourselves!
4. Have them write movies and screenplays.
Writing also doesn’t need to be in prose or book form. Most teens love movies and TV, so consider having them write their own movie or TV show!
The boundaries of this type of writing are limitless. It is a fantastic opportunity for young writers to polish their writing and creative skills. Of course, the young writer may not have the resources or the money to translate the scripts to the big screen, but it can be a lot of fun.
5. Have actors act out what they write.
You can tie this with the idea above. Don’t think the stories are quite ready for Hollywood? No problem!
Your young writers can also become actors themselves and act out the scripts that they wrote. This is a great way to foster creativity and encourage them to keep polishing their craft of writing.
If you are a teacher in a classroom or you tutor a number of teens, having them act out their stories can be fun for everybody involved.
If you have a small budget, you can consider hiring some local actors to professionally act out the works.
Young Storytellers is an organization that has had a lot of success with this model. They work with elementary school, middle school, and high school students in Southern California and have had famous Hollywood actors like Seth Rogen, John Cho, and Thomas Middleditch come to act out student stories.
6. Write fanfiction.
In my experience, fanfiction is sort of the silver bullet when it comes to getting teens excited. Teens today all love something. Whether it’s a fictional series or a real celebrity. Any time there is some fanaticism, there is a chance for fanfiction.
The most important part when trying to get people to write fanfiction is to focus on what the teen likes, not what YOU like. This has to get them excited. If you don’t know what the teen likes, let them choose!
There are quite a few places to get started writing. Many teens use a more visual focused site called Commaful, which can be a more gradual introduction into fanfiction and writing. The one downside they have is that they are a bit newer so there are certain interests and “fandoms” that they may not have yet. You can check out their fanfiction page to see. If your teen doesn’t see something they like there, Archive of Our Own is the most well-known fanfiction community and has a ton more fandoms. It is a little more intimidating but it is huge and there is a lot of quality writing on there. If you have a more specific fandom, you’ll likely be able to find it there.
7. Plot out stories beforehand.
Coming up with plot ideas can be the most fun part about writing stories. Young people are naturally very creative. Take advantage of that! Brainstorm on characters, plot ideas, or story worlds and more before you even put pen to paper!
Use exercises such as What if … and ask them to think up
- a setting
- a character
- and a problem that character is suddenly faced with
Some colleges actually use Beemgee directly in the classroom to teach story development in the context of screen writing or creative writing. This might be too in-depth for most teenagers, but still the Beemgee story development tool is great for inspiration and provides fantastic resources. For example, characters drive stories, and in the character section of the tool you’ll find all the different aspects of dramatic motivation. Once your teenagers have started figuring out their hero’s or heroine’s wants and needs, they’ll be even keener to start writing the story.
All in all, it’s important to focus on the fun. Every teen is different and every teen will respond to different ideas differently. It’s important to be patient and to try a lot of different creative ideas.
Explore the Beemgee story development tool: