We can divide creative writing into two broad categories – prose (stories) and poetry. This post will give you some ideas for how to write a story.
Don’t miss the answer at the end of this post about why Molly’s hiding. But no peeking! Because you’d miss some interesting facts about Beatrix Potter and how to use her Tale of Peter Rabbit
to help you write a story.
You’ll also want to learn how Garth Williams, who illustrated the Little House books, struggled with the illustrations for Charlotte’s Web!
Even if you’ve read The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other books by Beatrix Potter, you may not know that as children, Beatrix and her brother collected all kinds of wild animals to keep as pets. Using paper bags, they smuggled frogs, salamanders, mice, hedgehogs, rabbits, and even a bat in to share their schoolroom.
Beatrix became a talented naturalist and even learned to draw using a microscope. She filled homemade sketchbooks with drawings of animals and plants that she and her brother found on their rambles in the English countryside. Later Beatrix began to sell some of her drawings and watercolors for greeting cards and to illustrate letters she wrote. Peter Rabbit began as a letter for the son of Beatrix’s former governess.
An interesting biography of Beatrix Potter for adults is, Beatrix Potter, A Life in Nature, by Linda Lear.
If you’d like to create stories about some of the creatures you’ve seen on your rambles this summer, read some of Beatrix Potter’s stories—first to enjoy and then as examples to help you learn to write.
Notice that although Beatrix puts clothes on her animals, her illustrations show them true to what they really look like. And aside from their talking, the animals mostly do things within their nature; for example, Peter runs to Mr. McGregor’s garden to eat veggies, and he’s afraid of humans and the cat.
Let’s use the story of Peter Rabbit as an example of how we set up a story in 3 parts.
- Introduce your main characters. In Peter Rabbit there’s Mother Rabbit, Peter, and 3 sisters.
- Tell where your story takes place. The rabbit family lives in a burrow
- Introduce a problem or challenge for your character to survive or solve. When Mother Rabbit goes out she warns her rabbit children not to go near Mr. McGregor’s garden because Father Rabbit had an accident there and was put in a pie, but Peter ignores her and goes right to the garden.
- Notice how quickly Potter moves you on to the…
Excitement and tension build as the main character tries to survive or solve their problem. He or she tends to get in more and more trouble as their first efforts fail. As Mr. McGregor chases Peter, the rabbit loses his little jacket and shoes, hides in a watering can, has to sneak by a cat, and gets lost.
A Climax ends the middle of a story and is the point when we’re not sure if our character will make it or not.
In Peter Rabbit, that’s when Peter finally spies the gate and his way out, but Mr. McGregor sees Peter as he makes his dash for safety. For suspenseful moments, as Peter wriggles under the gate, we don’t know if he will escape or end up in a pie!
All the loose ends are tied up and we see how things turn out for our characters. Peter gets home, and is safe, Whew!! But he’s put to bed with a dose of chamomile tea, while his sisters have a supper of blackberries and milk.
Now you try:
- Think of some animal characters you’ve seen this summer
- Use your own observations and research where and how they live—type of home or nest, type of food and how they find it, etc.
- Think of some possible problems or dangers they could get into—too little rain, too much rain, predators, living in a dangerous place, etc.
- Put your characters in your setting, give them your problem, and have them try to solve it several ways.
- Build suspense toward an exciting climax
- End by letting your readers know how everyone and everything turns out.
- Have some fun, and illustrate your story from your drawings and and photos!
Two books for older elementary readers and great read alouds for the whole family are:
- Rabbit Hill and its sequel, The Tough Winter, by Robert Lawson. Lawson’s illustrations also show a keen observation of animals and plant life.
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams. As Williams worked on his illustrations, he and White exchanged letters about what Charlotte should look like, because Williams didn’t want to scare children. White had a particular kind of spider in mind and sent Williams many photos!! So we know they were also concerned to make the animal characters true to life, at least in looks.
All three of these stories have such great messages of family and friendship and love for others. Don’t let your children or grandchildren grow up without them!
Next post will be about poetry, so be sure and sign up for the Picture Lady’s posts.
Oh and here’s the answer to the mystery of why Molly is hiding. No, she’s not camera shy! But I bet you already peeked and know!!
Molly is terrified of thunderstorms!!
Here in Colorado, clouds begin to pop up over the mountains in the morning, and by afternoon many build and billow towards us, bringing rain and thunder and often hail. Molly has learned this pattern and begins to get nervous about noon.
So we got her something to help her feel less anxious. Here she is modeling her new thundershirt. It seems to help her. Maybe she feels like her mom is holding her tight!!