by Christopher Edge | Feb 18, 2019
How to write your 500 Words story
So you’ve got your great idea, and you’ve planned the plot. Now comes the hardest (but most rewarding) part – actually writing your story. Here are my top tips on how to get started.
Don’t forget to enter your finished tale into the BBC’s 500 Words competition !
1. Find a space to write
This could be at the kitchen table, in the library, or even on the bus to school. Michael Morpurgo writes his books in bed! Wherever you choose to write your story, the most important thing to do is start writing .
2. Turn off your inner critic
Every author has a critic inside their head telling them what they’re doing wrong. But if you spend too much time listening to them you’ll never do anything right – or write! Stop worrying about your spelling and punctuation and instead concentrate on getting your story down on the page. You’ll have time to fix up any mistakes you make when you edit your story later.
3. Grab your reader’s attention
Remember, the beginning of your story needs to hook the reader from the very first line. Try to create a dramatic opening that will make readers want to carry on reading to find out what happens next.
4. Show, don’t tell
As you write your story, think about what you want the reader to see. Choose details that help them to imagine the action. Remember it can be more powerful to show how a character is feeling through descriptive details, rather than telling the reader directly. ‘A tear ran down Alice’s face’ works better than ‘Alice was sad’!
5. Craft the perfect ending
This is where you need to wrap up the plot of your story. Whether it’s happy or sad, scary or strange, the ending you choose needs to leave the reader feeling satisfied that they’ve read a great story.
So, what are you waiting for? Get writing!
Action and emotion
Get thinking about vivid vocabulary with our BBC 500 Words activity sheet. Discover imaginative ways of showing a character’s emotions, rather than telling the reader directly.
For more activities and information about the 500 Words competition, visit our BBC 500 Words page .
More from Oxford Owl
- BBC 500 Words competition 2020
- Christopher Edge’s creative writing books
- How to write your best story ever!
- Harriet Muncaster’s creative writing challenge >
- How to plan your 500 Words story >
- 4 tips to inspire children’s creative writing >
- 4 fun ways to develop characters for a short story >
- 4 top tips for writing great plots >
- How to find the perfect words for your story >
Written by Christopher Edge
Christopher is an award-winning author whose books have been translated into more than twenty languages. As well as writing fiction, he has created several inspirational guides to get children and teenagers writing.
Posted in Age , Age 11+ , Age 5-6 , Age 7-8 , Age 9-10 , Creative writing , Topic
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How to Write a Story in 500 Words
Last Updated: May 14, 2022
wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 9 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. This article has been viewed 1,841 times.
Have you ever wanted to write a story in 500 words? This is a big accomplishment, and it takes careful thought and writing of the different parts of the story. Start from Step 1 to learn how.
- If you pick two or more settings, you need to describe them at least, but remember that you only have 500 words to write your story in, so keep it short! Give a short description of your characters and their surroundings. If you have a female character, you could describe their appearance and personality in a few words, or leave that for the reader to discover. It's totally up to you. Do not think that male characters don't need the same treatment.
- Not all stories involve conflict. A story may just explain from begging to end a series of occurrences.
- A story can also describe how a tree changes through the seasons or picturesquely describe a sunset.
- The middle is where the main theme of your story can settle in; for instance, "the girl finally slipped on her spy suit and dived for the door." In this example, the girl's actual identity is revealed, telling the reader that she is actually a spy.
- Add a little detail, and if your character is in another world or place, describe that in a few sentences.
- If you want the character trapped in the other world to not get out, and be stuck there, that's perfectly fine.
- If you do write another story in the series, (this is optional; you don't need to write a whole series, a single story is fine), then be sure to continue your character's adventures and release him/her from the other world. When you've done all that, you are pretty much done!
- Remember to decide if you want a cliff-hanger to end your story; these are especially useful for series stories. A cliff-hanger is when a writer uses suspense to pull the reader in and make the want more. For example; "the door creaked open and a dark figure emerged from the shadows." That's about it, then! Your finished story of 500 words!
- A cliff-hanger can be used at the ends of paragraphs, as well as the ending, too. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- If you add a new character in the middle or end of your story, it will become confusing for the reader. Do not add any more characters after the beginning. Create all of the characters and settings in the beginning. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Your 500-word story has to be interesting, in order to make your reader want more of the story. The best way to go would be to ask for feedback when they've done, and if they like it, well done! But if they don't, don't be depressed. Simply ask them what went wrong and what they didn't like about your story. Based upon that feedback, rewrite parts of your story, or even rewrite the story completely as you see fit. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
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How to write an impactful story in 500 words or less
Tips for our book writers (Submissions end 15th of July 2022)
We are very excited about sharing the stories of professional migrant women and women of colour in Australia. We know that many stories are waiting to be told, and voices needing to be heard, because every story matters. And we want to make that happen through the writing of this book.
Over the next few weeks, we will share some tips to help you hone your writing skills and edit your work as you write.
Tip 1. Assume the context
This book is about people who identified as migrant women. Whether you move here from another country, as an adult on your own, with a partner, or under the supervision of a parental figure, the fact of the matter is that you or your parents migrated to Australia. Many people might be tempted to start their story by saying when they arrived and where they are originally from. Instead, you can skip that part and focus on a particular moment during your life as a migrant that you want to share. Short stories are more powerful if they focus on one single topic, issue, event or moment in time. Remember, you can share up to 5 stories for this book if there is more than one event in your story!
Bonus tip: add to your signature your country of origin, the year you migrated to Australia and your age if you wish to.
Here is a beautiful example of a short story. Although is not written by a woman, it illustrates how to assume the context and how go to the core of the story:
You don’t belong here (word count 162)
It was a weekday evening in the 1990s. Tram Route 86 running through Melbourne’s north. Ammah was heading home from work, dressed in a sari as she often was, minding her business when she was approached.
“You don’t belong here”.
If you know anything about Ammah, she is a pretty strong woman. She looked at the person, held their stare, looked away. They didn’t like this. And that’s when the first punch landed.
Not single person on the tram intervened. Not one person stepped in. It was only when it was clear it wasnt going to stop, that a fellow commuter put himself between ma and her attacker.
She got off the tram. The tram continued. Her life would continue.
30 years later, her son will share why this story was a pivotal one in shaping his life choices, to staff from more than 70 local governments at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Thursday.
Because of her, I can, and I will.
This story was taken from LinkedIn
By Shankar Kasynathan
Tip 2. Capture the moment
The ability to capture a moment in time will transform your writing. These moments are what make up your life. They are the moments that make up stories.
Begin by going through each of these senses. What do I see? What do I hear? Taste? Smell? Feel?
Then pay Attention to the Small Details. The details have to mean something. They have to point to a bigger picture of what you’re trying to express. Include details that give depth to the moment. If you include small details is because they build a better story.
Capture the Moment (word count 303)
Kneeling, I wrap my baggy, drab raincoat further around me, shielding me from the frigid weather. My eyes get distracted and travel around, bouncing from anything that catches my eyes. The smell of damp wood and grass surrounds me, pulling me into my world; everything around me is soothing. Although the sky is sad and gloomy, the sky still gives a sense of peace and serenity. Instead of taking out my book, like I originally planned too, I take a moment to take in this glorious setting and I start to think about how this amazing little escape is only a couple meters absent from society but has the absence of any human or worries.
As the bubble, that surrounded me as soon as I knelt down, burst because of the sound of footsteps come from the trail above me and the loud mooing coming from the cows. Once the sounds pass, I dive back into the bubble, that I unconsciously made. Once I am in this bubble, again, I listen to the soft sounds as the wind dances around me and create a soft whistling sound of the wind passing through the eucalyptus leaves, some falling swiftly down. This insufficient corner that is completely shut off from the outside world, has the power to clear even the most unorganised minds.
Once I have taken in my surroundings, making sure not to overlook anything, I decided to start reading. I did not hesitate to leap into the mischief that the “Railway Children” get themselves into. This alternate world where everything is different, is my escape from the real world where most thing are routined and nothing exciting last for more than an hour, where life is not about worries of the future or past, in books its like diving into a compelling reality.
By Jemma Hine
Born in China from European parents. Migrated to Australia at the age of one in 2009
Tip 3. Let your title tell part of your story
When it comes to short stories, especially micro stories, a creative title can go a long way.
The title can act as an introduction, or a promise of what’s coming: is the first impression of your story.
It helps the reader gain context, and discover the theme, without giving away any event.
Nannies on the train (word count 109)
I was returning home from the city on the train with my 10-year-old son.
I noticed a woman with dark skin and a strong foreign accent sitting near us, travelling with a boy. The boy looked younger than my son and had fair skin, red hair, a local accent and was wearing a footy jumper.
The woman must be taking the child to his parents –I thought– her shift must be finishing soon.
Then my son interrupted my thoughts with a question, and when I responded I could hear my own foreign accent and see the pale colour of his hand next to mine.
By a migrant mum.
Tip 4. Is it cake time yet?
Before you answer that question, let’s think of your story as a cake. If you want to share a cake, would you share it when:
- you are mixing it
- it’s still baking
- it’s hot off the oven
- it has cooled down and has all the decorations
You probably would agree that the best time to share the cake is when it has cooled down and has all the decorations. Some people would even let it rest over night and let all the beautiful flavours develop.
The same goes for your story. If you are still in the middle of it, and the story has not had enough time to cool down, probably it is not the right time to share it. In that case, you can always share another story that is wordy of a party. Your party!
Tip 5. Open-ended stories
We want to suggest a different way to end a story for the adventurous writer. As you know, some stories have an obvious ending, while others are still unfolding, and others are left open for interpretation.
Have you considered the possibility of creating a cliffhanger at the end of your story? But, why would you do that, I hear you ask? And that is a very good question.
Although some of the experiences in our book are similar for our readers, every story is as unique as its author. So, in an open-ended story, the reader draws their conclusions from what is presented to them instead of a predetermined conclusion.
Open-ended stories also leave the reader curious, wanting to explore more and trying to close the open loops. It also allows the reader to resolve the situation based on their personal experience, which could be thought-provoking, liberating and almost therapeutical.
Open-ended stories are not suitable for all writing styles, but it is an opportunity that some of you might want to explore…
PMW acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and pay our respects to them, their culture and their Elders past, present and emerging.
We acknowledge Diversity, advocate for Inclusion and fosters a sense of Belonging.
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- The Stories
7 tips and tricks for writing a spectacular short story
Seven years ago, Chris Evans had a dream: to get children excited about reading and writing. All children, no matter what their ability. 500 Words is now one of the most successful story-writing competitions for kids in the world. Nearly half a million pupils have written a story for us; that’s over 277 MILLION words !
From Monday 16th January , Chris Evans invites budding young writers to submit a 500-word story on any topic, with the six winners having their story read on the air by a celebrity at a star-studded event in a top secret location.
Here are tips and techniques to help get the creativity flowing and bring your child’s story to life. Get reading, Get writing, get inspired!
1. Plot perfection with Naomie Harris
She’s thrilled in Bond, stunned audiences as Winnie Mandela in The Long Walk to Freedom and bewitched us as Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean; now, Naomie Harris takes on her toughest challenge yet…putting 500 Words story-writers through their paces with a Story Starter on Plot.
What twists and turns make the perfect tale? Playing around with plot at a green screen studio our 500 Words writers get the inside tips and tricks.
Plot perfection with Naomie Harris
Naomie Harris provides plot perfecting tips to polish your story
2. Charlie Higson's tips
500 Words judge and award winning children's story book author, Charlie Higson explains what he looks out for in 500 Word entries.
"Don’t be held back thinking 'I should be writing this type of story or that type of story'. Write a story you would like to read".
Charlie Higson's tips
Charlie Higson explained what he looks out for in 500 Word entries
3. Ben Willbond and Terry Deary Explore Originality
Horrible Histories creator Terry Deary and actor Ben Willbond consider Originality with tips on creating new, original story lines. Can you turn an old fairytale on its head to create a brand new brilliant story?
Ben Willbond and Terry Deary Explore Originality
Ben Willbond and Terry Dreay from Horrible Histories explore Originality
4. Frank Cottrell Boyce shares his top 3 story writing tips!
Returning 500 Words judge and Children's fiction author has a multitude of tips, including these gem.
Frank Cottrell Boyce answers writers questions
Frank Cottrell Boyce answers some burning questions about writing 500 Word stories
5. Matthew Perry & Guy Garvey talk story inspiration
Friends star Matthew Perry & singer Guy Garvey reveal where their writing inspiration comes from.
Matthew Perry & Guy Garvey talk story inspiration
Friends star Matthew Perry & singer Guy Garvey reveal where their inspiration comes from.
6. Sheila Hancock explores ways to write a brilliant character
As a star of stage and screen for over 60 years, there is isn’t a thing Sheila Hancock doesn’t know about Character. In this 500 Words Story Starter, Sheila provides tips and tricks to help budding young story-writers observe people as accurately as Charles Dickens himself.
How to write a brilliant character: Sheila Hancock
Sheila Hancock gives story writing tips & tricks on the topic of character
7. Ten more killer tips from the 500 Words Story Lab
Chris Evans, Francesca Simon, Frank Cottrell-Boyce & Malorie Blackman impress HRH The Duchess of Cornwall with story tips.
The 500 Words Story Laboratory: Ten Killer Tips In Ten Minutes
Chris, Francesca, Frank & Malorie impress HRH The Duchess of Cornwall with story tips!
The competition asks children in the UK aged between 5 and 13 to compose an original work of fiction using no more than 500 words. Entries are in two categories: 5-9 years and 10-13 years. Budding young writers have until 7pm on Thursday 23 February 2017 to submit their stories.
More information and terms and conditions can be found in our FAQs plus children will find an array of tools to inspire and help them.
More from 500 Words
500 Words 2020
Everything you need to know about this year's competition.
Submit a story
All the information you need to enter the competition.
What is 500 Words all about?
Everything you need to know about Radio 2's short story-writing competition for kids.
10 Great Opening Lines From Literature
The best opening sentences in literature, according to 500 Words judges.
- Children's > Activities
[Writing Prompt] 500 words
Write a story that is exactly 500 words long.
That means you have about 50 words to set things up, 100 words send your character out on their adventure, 200 words to introduce a complication, 125 words for the crisis and climax, and 25 more words for your pithy summing up.
If you need a theme, use this: your character needs to do something/get somewhere quickly. Time is brief, as is your word count.
One thought on “[Writing Prompt] 500 words”
The Red Balloon
John wanted a balloon, not just any balloon either, but the red balloon that floated high above his head attached to the stroller. The wind started to pick up and the balloon danced behind the group, the string pulled taut.
“I wanna hold my loon,” said John, reaching out to take the balloon into his own small hands.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea, John. It might fly away,” said the tall man and he went back to his conversation with John’s brother, Simon.
“But, I wannit,” said John loudly, “It is my loon!” John put his feet down and the stroller stopped abruptly. The tall man pushing the stroller stumbled at the sudden loss of forward motion. John held out his hands again.
“John, it is windy and the balloon might fly away if you hold it. It will be safer if it stays attached to the stroller,” repeated the tall man.
“Don’t care. It is my loon. I wanna hold my loon,” insisted John loudly for the first time drawing the attention of passersby to the conversation.
“John, if I give it to you then you have to promise not to get upset if it flies away,” said the tall man with a resigned sigh.
“I promise,” said John as he held out his small hand.
“This is not a good idea,” said John’s older brother, Simon. “You know he is going to let it go and then spend the rest of the trip crying.”
“I not!” said John indignantly. “I not let my loon go. I love my loon.”
“Simon, he is going to cry if I don’t give him the balloon too,” said the tall man as he untied the balloon from the stroller and attached it to the little boy’s arm where he immediately reined the balloon in and gave it a hug. “There you go John, now put your feet back in the stroller so we can go.”
John snuggled his balloon closer as the group made its way through the rest of the zoo.
Amazingly the rest of the trip was quite uneventful. John carefully kept track of his balloon as he peeked around it to see the various animals and fish on display. Even Simon was impressed by the dedication of his little brother to the care and protection of his precious loon.
Finally it was time to get into the car and go home. The balloon had survived the entire afternoon and John hadn’t cried even once.
“I’m sorry I told Flip not to give you your balloon,” said Simon as they got into the car. “I didn’t know how much you liked it.”
“I love my loon, Fimon,” said John and crawled into his seat in the car still cradling the precious red balloon in his arms unwilling to let it go even for a little while.
John gave the balloon an extra squeeze and was startled by the loud “Bang!” moments later. The crying started immediately.
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A 6-part journey through the short story.
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