Take a word for a walk… writing tips from the Children’s Laureate

Some days stories just happen.  They pop into your mind, nibble at your thoughts and then BAM! your pen is dancing all over the page.  And then there are the other days.  The days of nothingness – the days of blank paper and furious blinking.  Here are three top tips from Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman, to avoid those days – because sometimes all you need to write a brilliant story is just a little nudge.


1. Take a word for a walk

flying fish

Think of a word – any word. Let’s start with the word ‘imagination.’ Then think of this word as an animal. Write down what animal it would be. Perhaps a flying fish or a silver fox? Then think of this word as a food. A sparkly skittle? Next think of it as a wish. The ability to fly? So here’s what happened when moontrug took ‘imagination’ for a walk:


Animal: flying fish
Food: skittle
Wish: to fly
Colour: blue and sparkly
Sound: a whisper
Taste: tangy
Smell: fresh air
Mode of Transport: a space hopper


As soon as the word ‘space hopper’ was down on the page, moontrug went on to write a short story which opened with a boy bouncing on a space hopper. You never know what’s going to inspire you! So start taking words for a walk… Moontrug took ‘the sea’ for a walk after ‘imagination’ and it looked a little something like this:


Animal: rhino charging
Food: entire tubs of vanilla icecream
Wish: to be invisible
Colour: pale grey
Sound: cymbals clashing
Taste: peppery
Smell: earthy
Mode of Transport: a dirt bike


2. I am watching you…


Sometimes music is a great tool for inspiring magical thoughts. Malorie Blackman got moontrug writing a very creepy story using a song called Lux Aeterna (‘eternal light’) by Clint Mansell. Here’s how. Start by writing this sentence on a blank piece of paper: ‘I am watching you’. Play this song. Now write – whatever comes into your head. With a song like that, you’re bound to write something creepy…


3. Is that an arm bone?

arm bone

Root around you house for an object which is slightly unusual. Malorie Blackman gave moontrug an arm bone (not her own). The object can be anything: a velvet glove, an old notebook, a wig… Imagine who might have owned this object once upon a time. Imagine why. Imagine their story. With Blackman’s arm bone, moontrug ended up imagining an old woman called The Bone-Gatherer who lived in a house surrounded by bones. She thought the bones would keep out the evil spirits but the bones were just a way for them to climb in…


So have a go with Blackman’s writing tips. You never know – one minute you might be taking a word for a walk, the next you might be on page 34 of the next Harry Potter.

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