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How to find the perfect words for your story

Every writer wants to find the perfect words to tell their story. These activities will guide your child through four ways to make their language sparkle, from creating striking similes to wielding unusual words. Why not encourage your child to use their newfound vocabulary to create a stunning entry for the BBC 500 Words competition?

Please note: The closing day for BBC 500 Words 2020 is 8pm on Thursday 27th February. Find out more on our BBC 500 Words page.

1. Making your similes shine like the sun

Here are some great similes from the 500 Words competition 2017:

  • As tall as a dozen giraffes standing on top of each other.
  • Each step I took crackled like bacon cooking in a pan full of oil.
  • My mouth hung open like the gates of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Talk with your child about the pictures these similes paint. Then, challenge them to come up with their own similes by finishing the phrases below:

  • Soar like a ________.
  • As cunning as a ________.
  • As dark as ________.
  • As easy as ________.
  • As sharp as a ________.
  • As tall as ________.
  • Eat like a ________.
  • As fast as ________.
  • As red as ________.
  • As loud as ________.
  • Like a ________ in a china shop.
  • As ________ as a feather.

Striking similies

Download the BBC 500 Words activity sheet and complete the examples below to create your own striking similes. Have your child try to choose unexpected words that will create an original picture in the reader’s mind. Then, they can create their own similes from scratch!

Download the activity

2. Inventing words

Blending different words together to create new compound words can add interesting ideas and characters to a story. For example, blending ‘man’ and ‘suffragettes’ creates ‘manffragettes’, while if you add ‘water’ to a ‘yeti’ you end up with a ‘weti’! Challenge your aspiring author to blend different words to make their own compound creations.

3. Using synonyms

A writer shouldn’t always settle for the first word that pops into their head. Encourage your child to flick through a thesaurus to find better alternatives for overused words like ‘big’ and ‘nice’. You could play a game to get your child thinking about more interesting words – why not start with a simple word and challenge each other to come up with better and better synonyms, for example, ‘big’, ‘enormous’, ‘gigantic’, ‘dinosaurian’…

Author Top Tip:
Don’t always use the first word that comes into your mind. Instead of saying that a character in your story talks a lot, why not describe them as a ‘blatherskite’ or say that they’re speaking ‘loquaciously’?

Christopher Edge, How to Write Your Best Story Ever!

4. Get gongoozling!

From ‘squeegees’ to ‘widdershins’, ‘mulligrubs’ to ‘mugwumps’, get your child hitting the dictionary to find out the meanings of some of these funny-sounding words! Challenge your budding writer to find their own funny words to weave into their stories. Could they fit a ‘flibbertigibbet’ into their story, or perhaps find space for a ‘jackanapes’?

More from Oxford Owl

Books to support creative writing

Please note: all book links lead to more information on Amazon.co.uk

How to Write Your Best Story Ever

How to Write Your Best Story Ever!

Christopher Edge

From how to overcome writer’s block to what words to use to best effect, How to Write your Best Story Ever! is designed to help all children unlock their story ideas and write their own best ever stories.

Packed with entertaining illustrations that will inspire your child, this book is filled with tips on how to write in particular genres, create exciting characters, and write powerful sentences using metaphors, similes, and idioms.

Buy on Amazon

Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary

Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary

From aardvark to zozimus, a dictionary of real and invented words used by the world’s best storyteller. With real citations from Roald Dahl’s children’s books and illustrations by Quentin Blake, this dictionary is engaging, accessible, and will inspire and encourage young writers and readers.

Buy on Amazon