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Coming of age stories have always held a special place in my heart. When I…

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I’ve spoken with many kids about Minecraft––no big surprise––but I’ve also spoken with them about writing their own stories. And a couple of things emerge as constant themes:

  1. Kids want to write their own stories.
  2. Kids don’t know how to write their own stories.

So I put together some materials to help teach them the basic elements of a story. When I started writing, about seven years ago, I knew nothing about story structure. I just knew I wanted to write. The way I learned about story structure and dialogue and character development and setting and... is I started to write and quickly realized I knew nothing about the science of writing. I purchased lots of how-to books on writing and took a little piece here and a small morsel of insight there. I attended conferences, and I listened to many webinars, learning everything I could.

As I wrote more failed books, I found my writing wasn’t as smelly as it started out; it stunk a lot less, and in fact, sometimes my writing actually smelled pretty good. As the structure of the story began to formulate in the back of my mind, I started to see the patterns and the science of writing, and that’s when my books started to become successful.

I’ve distilled these learnings about the science of writing, and put them here, both in written form and also as videos on my website.

For this lesson, I’ve made up my own Minecraft story, and also use examples from the Lego Movie to illustrate some of these concepts as well. Soon, I will be writing this story out, with annotations showing what I’ve done, or tried to do, to illustrate one of the lessons.

You should feel free to show these materials to your children or students if you think it valuable. You should feel free to share it with anyone and everyone. I hope this is helpful.

Writing Minecraft Stories for Kids

At the time that I was preparing this document, I’ve published 12 Minecraft novels, with two more books completed and in the hands of the editor. Before these Minecraft novels, I wrote five books, all of which were colossal commercial failures. For the most part, these first books were unsuccessful because at the time I was very new to writing, and didn’t understand about plot and character, and as a result, those books were terrible.

But as I continued my writing endeavors (I’m stubborn and don’t know when to give up) I read books on plot construction, and character development, and scene construction, and suspense, and... I read countless books on writing pedagogy and learned a few nuggets of wisdom from each one. These techniques I’ve incorporated into my writing. The effect has been significant, leading me to the New York Times bestseller’s list, having 12 books published with plans out to book 18, with my novels appearing in 22 countries and translated into 13 different languages, and over a million copies in print!

Sharing what I’ve learned about writing with kids:

To share these writing strategies with kids, I did some writing workshops at local libraries. (Sadly, I no longer have time to do these workshops because of my writing schedule, sorry.) I put together this basic set of materials that I used with kids from 2nd grade to 7th grade.

I break down the lessons into five categories:

  1. Characters
  2. An internal struggle for the main character
  3. A way for the character to defeat the bad guy and learn something new (resolution)
  4. Setting
  5. Plot

I’ve made up my own Minecraft story just for this lesson, and also use examples from the Lego Movie to illustrate some of these concepts as well. You’ll also find the set of worksheets that I used during the workshops. You should feel free to use as needed.

I would love it if your children or students wrote their own stories. They are always welcome to send them to me, and I’ll post them on my website. It doesn’t matter if they write about Minecraft, or they write about something else, I don’t care, as long as they are writing. I get hundreds of stories every year, and I post anything that is longer than a sentence. Also, I moderate all comments, so I only allow positive responses, though I’ve seen very very few negative comments.

I hope that together, we can get kids reading and writing more, for we all know how important this is for literacy. And if we can get kids writing their own stories, this skill will serve them throughout their academic careers. Maybe together, we can spawn a whole new generation of authors!

Sample story for use in our lessons

I developed the following story for use in this workshop so that you can understand how I apply these different story elements.

Battle with the Wither King - Summary

Watcher stands guard in the tall watchtower that stands high above the village. He is supposed to watch the land for monsters, and then warn the villagers if he sees them. The problem is that he daydreams a lot, and will sometimes ring the alarm to warn the village when really he just imagined the monsters in his blocky head. Because of this, people don’t really believe anything Watcher says or trusts him very much, but he has the best eyes in the village, therefore it is his job to stand watch in the tower.

One day, he sees Karkan, the king of the withers and warns the village. Because of his past, no one believes Watcher and punish him for making something up about the most horrific of monsters, Karkan. In a desire to prove that he is right, Watcher goes out into the dangerous wilderness to find Karkan and prove that he is right. What he will find on his journey will terrify Watcher to his very soul when he learns Karkan’s secret plan... to destroy the entire village.

Can Watcher convince the village there is a real threat out there in Minecraft, or will he have to stop Karkan himself?

We’ll use this story as an example for the lessons that will follow in future issues.  Perhaps your child or student will want to finish this story?


by Mark Cheverton  (TopShelf Columnist)

Twitter @MarkC_Author / MarkCheverton.com