Creative Writing Ideas
Exciting Story Ideas
for Early Teens
Here are our top creative writing ideas gathered from studies of what early teens (13 to 14 years) want to read, together with examples of popular books to help you find out what appeals most to your target audience:
Creative Writing Ideas: Personal Development, Relationship Issues, Choices and Transitions
Early teens want to read about how your protagonists deal with challenges they themselves are facing: for example, relationship issues with parents, siblings and friends; family problems; the search for one's own identity and personal convictions; peer pressure; gangs and bullying; choices and transitions.
Stories with positive themes inspire hope and help readers deal with their own problems. Check out these excellent books: Wilson Rawl's Where the Red Fern Grows (family relationships); Robert Newton Peck's A Day No Pigs Would Die (father-son relationship); Irene Hunt's Across Five Aprils (Newbery Medal; about growing up and making choices), and Up a Road Slowly (Newbery Medal); Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia (Newbery Medal; about friendship and love); Joan Bauer's Hope Was Here (personal convictions and values); Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (Pulitzer Prize; about family, relationships and prejudice).
Find great stuff in these books too: Sharon Creech's 3 titles: Walk Two Moons (Newbery Medal); Bloomability; The Wanderer; Cynthia Voigt's Dicey's Song (Newbery Medal); Christopher Paul Curtis' Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery Medal); Sharon Draper's Copper Sun; Louis Sachar's Holes (Newbery Medal; about boys' relationships and pressures, hope and character).
Looking for creative writing ideas about common teen issues? These bestsellers show the way: SE Hinton's The Outsiders (family, relationships, gangs and bullying), and That Was Then, This Is Now (gangs and bullying); Jerry Spinelli's 3 titles: Stargirl (peer pressure); Crash; and Maniac Magee; Sarah Dessen's 3 titles: Someone Like You (parent-teen relationship); Just Listen; and That Summer.
And, for a lighter touch, check out these titles: Yvonne Coppard's Not Dressed Like That, You Don't; Rosie Rushton's Just Don't Make a Scene, Mum!; and I Think I'll Just Curl Up and Die; Paula Danziger's The Cat Ate My Gymsuit; and Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice?
Creative Writing Ideas: Family, Friends and School
Early teens enjoy reading stories about warm, loving families; hence the popularity of perennial favorites like Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and sequels, and LM Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series (Anne's House of Dreams and Anne of Ingleside are where we find Anne with her own happy family). Look out also for Madeleine L'Engle's 4 titles: Meet the Austins; Moon by Night; The Young Unicorns; A Ring of Endless Light (Newbery Honor); Troubling a Star.
In the midst of insecurity, readers find comfort in stories that show how family unity and love can help teens to triumph over setbacks such as prejudice, adversity, a hostile outside world and other challenges: Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Newbery Medal); Let the Circle Be Unbroken; Song of the Trees; Cynthia Voigt's Come a Stranger and Homecoming.
Stories revolving round friends and school life are also popular with this age group. Check out Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High series; Laura Peyton Roberts' Clearwater Crossing series; and LM Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series.
Creative Writing Ideas: Adventure and Suspense
Adventure stories are popular too. Early teens look for strong, true-to-life characters who win against the odds; this inspires them to overcome their own problems. Look out for Gary Paulsen's Hatchet (Newbery Honor): this story, of a city boy left alone to survive in the wilderness, has sold over 3 million copies worldwide. Check out Paulsen's other books too, for example: Brian's Return; Brian's Winter; The Island; Tracker.
Other great survival adventure stories include Jean Craighead George's My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves; Will Hobb's Jason's Gold (an ALA Best Book about the 1897 Yukon gold rush); and the sequel, Down the Yukon; Elizabeth George Speare's The Sign of the Beaver; Sharon Creech's The Wanderer; Nancy Bond's A String in the Harp; and Ian Serraillier's The Silver Sword.
Look out for well-loved classics as well, for example, Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.
Adventure stories often come as a series. Get your reader hooked on the first story, and you're well on your way to starting a whole series featuring the same cast of favorite characters. Check out Walter Farley's classic Black Stallion series; Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew series (mystery adventure); and Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series (Bible: Book of Revelation; end-times).
Creative Writing Ideas: Fantasy Adventure Stories
Fantasy-adventure stories are among the top-sellers today. Look out for Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time (Newbery Award); A Wind in the Door; A Swiftly Tilting Planet; Many Waters; also Brian Jacques' Redwall and sequels: Mossflower; Mattimeo; Mariel of Redwall; Pearls of Lutra; The Legend of Luke; Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief (Newbury Honor); Christopher Paolini's Eragon; Nancy Bond's A String in the Harp (Newbery Honor).
Also popular are Kenneth Oppel's 3 titles: Silverwing; Sunwing; Firewing; Avi's Perloo the Bold; Susan Cooper's Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark is Rising (Newbery Honor); The Grey King (Newbery Medal); Silver on the Tree; and The Boggart.
And how about creatively combining fantasy and humor? As Richard Peck did in The Ghost Belonged to Me (ALA Notable Book); Ghosts I Have Been; and The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp.
Creative Writing Ideas: Fairy Tales and Legends
Fairy tales and legends retold: putting a new spin on old tales has paid off for many writers. Check out Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown (Newbery Honor); Rose Daughter; Beauty; Spindle's End; The Outlaws of Sherwood; Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted (Newbery Honor); Rosemary Sutcliff's Sword at Sunset; The Sword and the Circle; Light Beyond the Forest; Road to Camlann; and TH White's The Once and Future King and The Sword in the Stone.
Creative Writing Ideas: Romances
Romances, both contemporary and historical, are popular with early teens. Many authors add a dash of romance when writing adventure, fantasy, historical or school stories: for example, Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High series and Laura Peyton Roberts' Clearwater Crossing series, which revolve round school life as well as the love lives of the main characters; also LM Montgomery's Anne of Avonlea.
Check out Janette Oke's historical romances too: Love Comes Softly; Love's Enduring Promise; Love's Long Journey; and many others. Romances spun from a retelling of childhood fairy tales also go down well with readers: look out for Robin McKinley's Rose Daughter; Beauty; Spindle's End; also Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted (Newbery Honor, 1998).
Creative Writing Ideas: Sports Stories
Sports stories command a faithful following as well. Readers who enjoy sports stories tend to look for more in the series, which usually revolve round the same set of central characters.
Check out Michael Hardcastle's Second Chance; Kickback; Soccer Captain; and Matt Christopher's Baseball Pals; Dirt Bike Racer; Football Fugitive; The Hockey Machine.
Creative Writing Ideas: Historical Fiction
Get ideas from history; exciting events and tumultuous times make for great stories. Check out Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth; Song for a Dark Queen; and Sword Song; Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdie (Newbery Honor); Elizabeth George Speare's The Bronze Bow (Newbery Medal); Scott O'Dell's The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt by Day and The King's Fifth; Iain Lawrence's The Wreckers and The Buccaneers.
These are also excellent: Esther Forbes' Johnny Tremain (a modern classic); Paula Fox's The Slave Dancer (Newbery Medal); Mollie Hunter's Hold on to Love; Richard Peck's A Long Way from Chicago (Newbery Honor) and A Year Down Yonder (Newbery Medal); and Gloria Whelan's Miranda's Last Stand; Once on This Island; Farewell to the Island; and Return to the Island.
To find out sales figures for the top-selling books in each category, go to Creative Writing Resources:
Top Books for Early Teens
For creative writing ideas to help you write stories in a way that gets teens reading, visit
How to Write Stories Kids and Teens Want to Read.
Writing for older teens? Visit Creative Writing Ideas:
Cool Story Ideas for Mid-Teens
Marvelous Story Ideas for Mature Teens.
Writing for younger readers? Visit Creative Writing Ideas:
Hot Favorites for Kids.
For a step-by-step guide to story writing, visit
How to Write a Book: Creative Story Writing Tips that Work!
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