With Roald Dahl Day celebrated on 13th September, there’s no better time to share some of his scrumdiddlyumptious writing tips. We’ve also included ideas for how you can use his advice to make your own stories sing with riveting Roald-related writing power!
If you’re hungry for MORE phizz-whizzing writing tips and activities after reading this, dive into the rest of our Get Creative series.
1.“If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books”
Why this matters: Put simply, the more you read, the more you’ll discover what makes a good story. And the good news is, given that reading is often an out-of-this-world-awesome experience, it’s a great way to learn your craft without feeling like you’re learning anything!
How to make this happen: Kind-of stating the obvious, but to read a lot of books, you have to (wait for it…) READ A LOT OF BOOKS!
To make reading it a habit you love, find books that speak to YOU! To do that, explore this very website, where you can discover thousands and thousands of brilliant books on every imaginable subject.
2. “You should have a lively imagination”
Why this matters: Think about what you love about your favourite stories. Chances are, they’ll be books that made you think, “WOW! I wish I’d thought of that”, or “CRIPES! What an unusual idea/person/thing to happen!” In other words, books that are packed with sparks of originality.
These “WOW!” moments are the result of writers putting their lively imaginations into their stories.
How to make this happen: A great way to make your own imagination sparkier is to ask “what if…?” about anything and everything. For example, during a boring trip to the supermarket, let your imagination run riot and ask things like, “What if the security guard was an alien sent to spy on human eating habits?” Then you might ask, “Why are they spying? Why do they want to know what humans eat? What happens when someone realises what they’re up to?”
While we’re not suggesting you don’t pay attention in class, school can also spark lively imaginations, as our feature on writing sensational school-set stories reveals.
Alongside getting into the habit of asking “what if…?” about everyday situations, try our activities for igniting the imagination. Here are some story-starters to get you going. We also have some awesome endings designed to spark inspiration.
3. “You must have stamina. In other words, you must be able to stick to what you are doing and never give up”
Why this matters: It’s all very well having a lively imagination that gives you brilliant story ideas, but what good is that if you don’t develop your ideas and put them on the page?
Quite simply, a writer needs the skill and staying-power to transform ideas into fully-formed, thrilling stories that keep readers reading.
How to make this happen: In the way sportspeople train every day, writers need to do the same, so set aside time to write each day.
As it happens, our fun flash fiction activities are on hand to help you get into the habit of writing, which will really help your writing stamina. These are also ideal for sparking the imagination, so you’ll be covering two of Dahl’s tips at once.
If you’re struggling to convert your lively imagination into fully-formed fiction, read our step-by-step guide to transforming awesome objects into sensational stories.
4. “It helps a lot if you have a keen sense of humour”
Why this matters: If you’re writing funny fiction or silly stories, it’s obvious you need a “keen sense of humour”. You need to be able to see your story world and characters through funny eyes, think up silly situations, and write witty one-liners. All of which will be almost impossible if you don’t have a funny bone in your body.
But, even if you’re writing a scary story, or an adventure, or an historic tale with oodles of atmosphere, it still helps to have a sense of humour.
For example, you might want one of your characters to be funny. You might need an absurd situation to break the tension of an action sequence — how about having your serious hero slip in monkey poo during a jungle chase-scene?
In addition, having humour can help you “stick to what you’re doing and never give up”.
How to make this happen: While we can’t magically give you a sense of humour, we can share hundreds and hundreds of rib-tickling reads that’ll enhance your humour – check-out the Lovereading4kids funny category to find a feast of funny fiction.
You could also dive into our Get Creative feature on how to write funny fiction.
Extra activities for devoted Dahl fans: How about writing a mash-up of Fantastic Mr Fox and The Twits? What about mixing Matilda with George’s Marvellous Medicine?
What if Dahl had written Charlie and the Chipolata Factory, or JoJo and the Giant Pineapple? Change a few names/words/facts about your favourite Dahl fiction and let your imagination go wild.
Joanne Owen is a writer and publishing professional with over twenty years’ experience of the book industry, and the author of a how-to children’s guide to creative writing, You Can Write Awesome Stories. Alongside writing and reviewing books, she hosts writing workshops and is an Editorial Expert for LoveReading.