What would happen in your story?
Why do we write stories? Most of the time it is for someone else to read it. However, they will only read it if it is interesting. (As a side note this should also be the case for your child as a reader. If a story isn't capturing their interest, encourage them to give it a go as they may be surprised to find they like it but set the expectation that they can stop and move onto another book. After all we generally read stories for the enjoyment and we want to promote reading for joy.)
How do you capture a reader's interest?
There are lots of different techniques authors use to engage with their audience. Story structure as discussed above is one of those. Starting in the middle of an epic battle, or with a crying character can be a way to hook your reader. For young children, one of the best techniques they can use is to describe. If you imagine a story as a series of images, to create a wonderful story you would want a small number of fabulous oil paintings showing lots of wonderful colour and detail. The sort of picture you could look at for days and keep noticing something new. When children begin to write you often find that they will instead produce lots of quick sketches which give you a brief overview of what is happening.
Description is the key to moving from a sketch to a prised oil painting. This is a complex skill and including a variety of descriptive techniques will help the story maintain the readers interest. In picture books you will find limited description as the images on the page are used to help create the context and provide further information. There are some wonderful examples of descriptive picture books out there though such as, Amos and Boris by William Steig (who wrote the book Shrek! which the movie was based on).
At this age talking is the best way to develop the description in stories. Talk about the story for example; Where is the character?; What is the weather like?; How they are feeling?. As mentioned earlier, TVs and movies can cover a lot more events than in a written story as they are able to use music, tone of voice and the visuals you see to add information needed to create an oil painting. You can use this to help children learn how to describe. Try watching an emotive part of a movie together, such as when Anna gets hurt as a young child by Elsa in Frozen. Watch this section together a number of times each time focussing on a different technique the director has used to make this scene emotional. What music can you hear? What tone of voice is Elsa using? Is it light or dark? What is the setting like? (the frozen nature of the room adds to the feeling of sadness) What body position is Elsa in? (She is huddled over Anna showing that she is sad and protective). Talk about how Elsa is feeling at this point. How do we know? Discuss with your child that at no point in this scene does Elsa say 'I am sad' yet we know she is. In class your child might hear this referred to as show not tell. TV and movies are a great way to begin to get children to understand what 'show not tell' means and how to use it effectively to make your reader have strong emotional reactions to events.