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Kids' author Matt Stanton shares his top tips for writing a great story

June 28, 2020 6:45PM Kids News

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Matt Stanton’s tips will get your imagination and short stories flowing. media_cameraMatt Stanton’s tips will get your imagination and short stories flowing.


Reading level: green

We engage with stories all the time. We watch them, read them, listen to them and tell them. Stories are the language we speak.

Best-selling children’s author and illustrator Matt Stanton says this is why stories are a great way for kids to explore the powers of their imaginations.

And while storytelling is rewarding, like many good things, it isn’t always easy. So here are Matt’s five creative writing tips to inspire* kids to write and get their entries in to the Kids News Short Story competition before it closes on July 3. 

media_cameraAuthor Matt Stanton knows getting started is often the hardest part of writing stories.

1. Use a Story starter
The hardest thing is often the blank page staring back at you. Story starters can help overcome* that challenge. Ask a parent or another adult to give you an idea or platform* from which to launch your story. I do this on my YouTube channel all the time. For example, I’ve asked kids to write stories inspired by the idea of an extreme trampoline, a hedgehog on a skateboard or your first post-COVID-19 haircut. So much fun!

2. Ask a “What if” question
Lots of the stories we love actually begin with a question. What if all the toys in your bedroom were actually alive? (Toy Story) What if a small boy was actually a famous wizard and he didn’t know? (Harry Potter) What if there is a monster under your bed who farts? (Fart Monster). Look around you at home or in the classroom, and ask yourself some “what if” questions. You might just come up with a really exciting idea.

Elementary age girl working on writing assignment in school media_cameraYou’ve still got time to think up a great idea for the Kids News Short Story competition.

3. Write fan fiction
Lots of writers start with fan fiction. It’s a great way to give your imagination a kick start. If you have a favourite book or movie or game, take the characters that you know and love and write your own story about them. You will love it, because you’ll be writing about something you already enjoy, and you’ll get to flex your story muscles at the same time.

4. Create imaginary nonfiction
If there’s something you really love like dinosaurs or you know everything there is to know about diggers, why don’t you create your own dinosaur or invent your own earthmoving machinery. You can create it by using diagrams, facts, history and strange-but-true lists. You’ll be able to use all the things you know and love to empower your imagination.

5. Start with a drawing
In primary school, most kids prefer to draw rather than write. For many children writing is hard, whereas drawing is fun. So, you might want to start your story with a drawing. I often create characters with kids by combining ridiculous* ideas into a new cartoon creature and then adding a setting and a problem or two. It’s amazing how you’ll feel inspired to write incredible, imaginative stories with your own drawing as the prompt.

Funny Kid Peeking Duck by Matt Stanton. For Kids News media_cameraFunny Kid Peeking Duck by Matt Stanton.

Matt Stanton has sold more than one million books and his new book, Funny Kid Peeking Duck, (ABC Books) is out now. Matt also broadcasts a daily YouTube video live from his studio, with creative activities just for kids.

Kids News Short Story competition 2020 media_cameraKids News Short Story competition 2020

Time is running out to enter the 2020 Kids News Short Story competition, with entries closing on Friday, July 3.


Entry to the competition is free for children from Kindergarten to Year 9 studying in an Australian school.

All entrants must obtain the permission of their school and parent/guardian before entering this competition. All entries must be submitted by a registered teacher from the entrant’s school and entries must be accompanied by a Permission to Publish and Consent form signed by a parent or guardian.

Entries close at 5pm (AEST) on July 3.

Maximum one entry per person.

Click HERE for the online entry form and full terms and conditions.


  • Kindergarten to Year 2: Entry must be between 250 and 750 words.
  • Years 3-4: Entry must be between 250 and 750 words.
  • Years 5-6: Entry must be between 500 and 1000 words.
  • Years 7-9: Entry must be between 500 and 1000 words.


A judging panel will judge the entries. Winners in each age category will be awarded the following prizes:


  • 10 copies of your winning short story published into a printed book with a personally designed cover
  • Apple iPad — valued at $529
  • Harper Collins book pack — valued at $100


  • Harper Collins book pack — valued at $100


  • Harper Collins book pack — valued at $30


  • inspire: encourage someone to do something
  • overcome: beat
  • platform: starting point or idea
  • ridiculous: very silly


Characters’ stinky start to a winning story

Winning author’s top tips for a great short story


HAVE YOUR SAY: What was the last story you wrote about?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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