characters unique hobbies, personalities, and appearances. At the
same time, however, avoid the obviously strange. Characters should
be original but believable.
• Give characters real, relatable
struggles. The best heroes are
flawed, and even the most sick,
twisted villains may have inner
motivations that they see as just or
praiseworthy. The greatest protagonists and antagonists have both
strengths and weaknesses.
• Give characters a motivation.
Motivation drives a story. Once a
character is driven to accomplish
something, simply add obstacles
to turn it into a story.
if only small snippets of a hero’s
past appear in the final text. The
character’s previous experiences
shaped who he is now. It’s crucial
for an author to know not only
who his or her character is but
also how he became this way.
impossible hopes soaring somewhere
deep inside. Writing allows those hopes
to take flight; it gives a voice and an outlet to emotions and convictions.
Some ideas are more unrealistic—
concepts of war against malevolent dragons or exploration of alien planets—but
many hopes are far more practical than
we realize. Throughout history, written arguments have sparked change
that rapidly grew to become consuming
fires. Writing has fed revolution. It has
Our children’s entire
futures will be affected
by whether or not
they can write.
redirected culture. It has informed the
structure of society. It has changed the
hearts of individuals. Our students are
striving to carve a place for themselves
in the world, and one of the most potent
ways to do that is with words. Words can
reach across oceans, thanks to the power
of the Internet. Words can change people’s perspectives. Words can reach beyond the hand that pens them to affect
Writing isn’t something that students
will outgrow. No one will ever outgrow
convictions. No one will ever outgrow
the desire to change the circumstances of
the world around him. No one will ever
outgrow the private place in the back of
his mind that still believes in fantasy. As
C. S. Lewis aptly put it, “Someday you
will be old enough to start reading fairy
As we seek to raise our children to be
productive adults, we can’t afford to forsake teaching the skill of writing. It’s our
responsibility. The forgotten sword hasn’t
faded yet, but with time, we may find that
writing was sacrificed somewhere along
the road of education—that is, unless we
do something to keep it alive.
It’s time to unsheathe the sword—and
equip our children to use it.
Laura Genn lives in Pennsylvania with
her 13-year-old sister Hannah. They are
taught by their mother, but Dad has been
Students to Write
• Purchase a book of writing
prompts, or find some that are
available online for free. This
works especially well for holiday
stories to a parent who will serve
as a “scribe.” This creates an early curiosity that may eventually
translate into an enduring interest.
that interests them—whether it’s a
foreign country, a historical event,
or a philosophy—and have them
construct research papers on the
subjects of their choice.
own stories based on books that
they enjoy. The technical name for
such work is “fan fiction.” If the
parent gives consent, students can
post fan fiction on various online
websites, allowing them to receive feedback from others, both
younger and older.
labeled “the principal.” Laura enjoys everything from church youth group to video
games to debate tournaments, but writing
is her primary pursuit. She pens fan fiction
in her spare time and intends to publish
an original novel in the near future.
1. Lewis, C S., A Grief Observed. San Francisco:
HarperSanFrancisco, 2001. Print.
2. Lewis, C. S., and Walter Hooper. Collected Letters: Vol. 3. New York: Harper San Francisco,
3. Lewis, C. S., and Pauline Baynes. The Lion, the
Witch and the Wardrobe: A Story for Children.
New York: Collier Books, 1970. Print.