Every young writer is looking for an outlet. Some will choose to write stories. Others will try poetry. Some will even have a go at fanfiction, short stories, blogging, script writing or something else entirely. But each of them will have their own unique ideas and writing voice that they’re developing; you only need to look at the number of teens that publish their writing in online communities like Wattpad and Archive of Our Own to show that there are countless teenagers out there with overflowing imaginations and the urge to connect with others through the art of storytelling.
Of course, online communities have their pitfalls as well as their benefits. So what about writing as a group, sitting together face to face with other like-minded aspiring writers? Trying out new writing styles, building friendships, sharing story ideas – sounds great, right? But what sort of writing activities work best for getting teens to write together in a group? If you know some friends that love writing and you want to try it together with them, here are three ideas to get you started.
Thinking on your feet
Prompts drawn at random from a hat are a surefire way to generate great ideas for one key reason; they give writers direction. Every writer out there knows the horrible feeling of staring at a blank piece of paper with no idea what to write. Prompts from a hat avoid that problem by providing a rough outline, but simultaneously the freedom to explore it in your own way and tell a story unique to you. Random prompts also encourage writers to adapt quickly and put aside any preconceived notions they have about the topic, with the random selection having the potential to lead into some fantastic discussions with other group members as everyone shares their prompt and their initial ideas.
For example, if you were doing a creative writing group session on dystopian stories, you could come up with a series of prompts for everyone to draw that focus on an element of society that the dystopia is centred around (eg one prompt could be something along the lines of, ‘Society becomes obsessed with physical appearance – plastic surgery is seen as not just normal but a necessity to ‘fix’ people, with even the slightest physical blemish or deformity looked down on as being horrifying and disgusting…’ whilst another could be something like, ‘Conformity is so deeply engrained into the social norm that everyone acts almost identical and follows a strict regime – even wearing bright colours is enough to make you an outcast in your community…’). The prompts don’t need to be long – a sentence opener, a title, even a collection of random words will do fine – but whatever writing style or genre you’re focusing on they can plant the seeds perfectly for young writers to flourish.
Writing and Gaming - when worlds collide...
Ever heard of a concept called ‘gamification’? It sounds complicated, but basically it means applying typical elements of games (eg point scoring and rules of play) to other activities. It’s an idea that fits perfectly with writing activities – rather than just getting everyone in a group to sit quietly and write to the same theme or prompt, get them to engage through roleplaying and similar styles of performance based games.
Fantasy is a genre that is perfect for gamification – imagine that everyone in the group was all given the same task of writing about a magical quest, but each had to write about a different path? For instance, say your quest was to collect ingredients for a potion – each person in the group could write about collecting a different ingredient and have a different magical spell or weapon to help them on their quest. It’s like Dungeons and Dragons come to life!
Making it silly? Don't knock it 'til you've tried it...
Making a writing task deliberately silly and nonsensical might sound counter-productive, but there’s method to the madness. For a start, it’s a great way to make the writing activity interactive – laughter is a great method to break down those barriers of social awkwardness, shyness, uncertainty and so on to get everyone in the group feeling easygoing and friendly.
And it can help with the actual writing too. For example, a horror writing session could focus on having everyone come up with a silly title to a cheesy, low-budget horror movie – inevitably everyone would come up with corny, laugh out loud titles like ‘Curse of the Evil Lawnmower’ or ‘Attack of the Undead Pandas’! When everyone comes up with their title, they would then have to share it with the person next to them, who would be tasked with writing a horror story based on their ridiculous title. But even though the title would be silly, the regular ‘rules’ of horror, such as building suspense and creating frightening scenarios would still be in play – just think of all the creative ways in which lawnmowers or pandas could be written to make them genuinely creepy or threatening!
Those are just a handful of ideas on how to make writing in a group both entertaining and inspirational. Got any suggestions of your own? Get in touch to share your ideas.