Making Stories

Here are some story-making activities to enjoy with family and friends.

Making up stories lets our creative side shine through! Whether you like inventing stories with others out loud, enjoying some quiet-time putting pen to paper, or creating art as a way of sharing stories, we hope that some of these activities are the right fit just for you.

Put on a shadow puppet show

You will need:
• Black card, a pencil & scissors
• Wooden skewers/sticks & masking tape/sellotape
• A cereal box or old picture frame
• White fabric or thin white paper
• A stapler (if you have one)

Step 1: Make your theatre.

Grab a cereal box, cut a window and cover the gap with white paper. An old picture frame covered with white fabric works brilliantly too. Staples are best for fabric, and tape works fine for paper.

Step 2: Make your puppets. 

Dragons and warriors, knights on horses, or even magic monsters - what will you make? Draw outlines onto black card with pencil, cut your shapes out and attach them to wooden sticks with masking tape. You can also create some backdrops and attach them to your frame with tape if you like - you could cut out a castle or use real twigs to create a forest. 

Step 3: Put on a show.

A light source, like a lamp, is all you need now. Darken the room as much as you can, put the light behind your theatre and hold your puppets against the screen. If you can play a little music to add atmosphere, even better! 

Your audience will be spellbound!

Freeze frame comics

Comics are great fun to make. You can draw them on paper, or if you have access to a phone or tablet you can make freeze-frame comics by taking photos! To share your freeze-frame comic, either flick through the photos and narrate them out loud, or add written words to the photos either on screen or on print-outs.

Why not have a go at the tale of a couple of giants: The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built a causeway over from Ireland so that the two giants could meet.

Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he is. Fionn's wife, Sadhbh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him into a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the 'baby', he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants.

He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn would be unable to chase him down.

Did you know? Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal's Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa - it's possible that the story was influenced by these landscapes.

Design a mythical creature

Lots of stories from Scotland involve mythical creatures - selkies (creatures that can change from seals to humans), kelpies (water-horses that can change into humans), faeries, brownies/broonies (household spirits) and many more! Another mythical creature linked to Scotland is the unicorn - which is also the official national animal of Scotland.

Can you draw your own mythical creature? What would it look like? Would it have the tail of a lion and the body of a snail? Or the head of an eagle and the tail of a whale? 

Now it's time to build a story around the creature you have created. Think about where it might live (setting), whether it has friends or enemies (other characters), whether it is magical in any way, and what situation you think it needs to overcome. Has it lost its powers? Is it looking for an important object or creature? Does it go on a journey? Does it help someone in need? 

Enjoy building a story with your mythical creature right at the centre of the action.

Feathered tales

Birds are found in lots of stories and legends. They're a great starting point for a story because they can travel far away and see things from a different viewpoint to us – they have a bird's eye view on things!

Hide yourself somewhere – either by a window overlooking a garden or outside. Try to stay still and wait – what birds can you see and hear? Let these feathered friends inspire some stories.

• What would a day in the life of a sparrow look like? Write a diary entry!

• Create a play script for two birds having a conversation! Would they talk about what they had seen that day, flying across your neighbourhood? What could they argue about? What gossip may they have heard?

• Birds live a life of danger. Write an action scene about a chase or some other peril. Begin with one or two sentences of calm, then hint at a threat – perhaps just a sound or feeling. Make your bird character react to this (fluttering nervously?). Then you can let things go crazy: add a few quickfire sentences of the action – short snappy sentences are good for speed – and finish on a cliffhanger!

You can always illustrate your creations afterwards.

A treasure hunt story

A large amount of gold was said to be hidden somewhere around Loch Arkaig in the 1700s by Jacobites - followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie who was trying to be made king. Some of that treasure was never found.

Set up a treasure hunt story around your home or favourite green space. Begin by drawing a map showing where the first clue note can be found. In each note you write, hint at the place where the next one will be - until you hide a treasure at the end. The clues are fun to write – don’t make it too obvious, but not too tricky either.

Can you build your story as you write each clue? Who are the main characters we are following - the real people finding your clues, or a made-up person or animal? What happened to the character(s) in each location?

'Half and half' story-building game

Another story-making game is 'half and half' - each person gets to finish the sentence of the person before them and then start another sentence off.

The person who starts the game says "There once was a...", finishes that sentence and starts another before the next person takes over.

Here's an example:

Person taking first turn: "There once was a lonely dragon who had no friends. She lived in..."

Next person: "...a castle surrounded by a deep forest. One day a..."

Next person: "...mouse who lived in the forest heard the dragon singing a sad song. He wished that..."

Next person: "...he had a voice as sweet as the dragon's. Especially as..."

Next person: " was the forest talent show in a week's time and he'd always wanted to perform in it. He decided to..."

Can you finish the story? What other stories can you make together by finishing the last person's sentence and starting off another?

Inventing stories together

Sometimes the simplest stories are the most fun to make in a group.

You can take turns imagining objects (things) using the same opening line - something like "I opened a treasure chest, and in it I found...". Each person takes it in turn to say this opening line, lists all the things other people have said and then adds their own. You can keep going until you've had enough or it's too difficult to remember all the objects people have said!

Stories often have a setting, one or more characters, and a problem to solve. You can come up with ideas for all of these using the same game with different opening lines to help invent settings, characters and problems. Once you've had enough of each round you can chat with your group and pick the one you want to keep before you go onto the next round.

Here are some opening line suggestions:

Inventing settings together

"I had a weird dream, where I was [in/at/on/under...]"

You could always add in a describing word (in a calm meadow, at a spooky castle, on top of a cold mountain, under a rickety bridge) - either straight away or by creating another round.

Inventing characters together

Human, animal or mythical!

"In my dream I met a..."

You could always add in an emotion ('a sad jester, a thrill-seeking princess, a lonely dragon, an angry king') - either straight away or by creating another round.

Inventing objects together

"They found something unexpected, a..."

You could always add in magic power for this object (a cup that never emptied, a candle that wouldn't light, a carpet that could fly, a pen that wrote only poetry) - either straight away or by creating another round.

Inventing situations/problems together

"But everything was about to change, because..."

Is there a problem your character needs to overcome? What challenge are they facing?

Ta da!

Now that you've got a setting, a character, an object and a situation, see if you can weave them into a story together. You can swap any of them if one of the other suggestions would work better!

Have fun creating stories! If you share your story-making fun online, please tag #LearningWithHES so that we can see how you get on.

Many of these words and ideas are from the author Barbara Henderson, who has written seven books for young people. Lots of her novels draw on stories of Scotland's past for inspiration.