Inspiration for young writers

Want to join in with BBC Radio 2's 500 Words competition? Find out all about it and get your story off to a flying start with creative writing activities and advice from real authors.

What is 500 Words?
But what should I write about?
How do I submit my story?
More useful links

What is 500 Words?

500 Words is one of the biggest story-writing competitions in the world. Last year, there were over 135,000 entries! The winners and runners-up of the competition won stacks of free books and had their stories read to more than 10 million people on the radio by celebrities like David Walliams.

The competition opens on 29th January 2019, and will close on Friday 8th March. To take part, all you need to do is write a story of no more than 500 words about anything you like. You have to be 5–13 years old and live in the UK to enter. To find out more about the competition, take a look at the 500 Words website.

But what should I write about?

Don't worry if you're not sure what to write about! We have lots of tips and advice to help get your ideas flowing.

1. Making stories from real life

Not sure where to start? Fun facts from encyclopedias, museums, zoos, newspapers, the internet and beyond can inspire astounding stories. Did you know a jumping flea can accelerate faster than a space rocket taking off into orbit? You could use this science fact to spark a story about a brave and daring flea saving an astronaut from bug-eyed alien invaders. What is the craziest story idea you can think of inspired by the facts you find?

For more tips on finding story ideas, take a look at our blog: 4 tips to inspire children's creative writing >
Read Christopher Edge's tips on finding inspiration for your short story >

2. Creating your characters

Author Sarah McIntyre has this advice on creating interesting characters: "Draw your character first! Sometimes it’s easier to write a story when you have a good sense of what your character looks like: the clothes they wear (or if it’s a beast, maybe fur, or scales, or feathers), and what their body language says about their personality. You can also draw the world around them: do they live in a city, a rainforest, at the bottom of a well, under a bowling alley, on the moon?"

For more tips on making up characters, take a look at our blog: 4 fun ways to develop characters for a short story >

3. Starting your story

Think about the event that will kick-start the plot of your story. Throwing the reader into the middle of the action straight away is a great way to grab their attention. You could pick the opening scene from your favourite book or film and give it a twist to create a new plot. For example, what if Bilbo Baggins hadn’t met Gandalf at the beginning of The Hobbit, but Smaug the Dragon instead?

For more tips on structuring your story, take a look at our blog: 4 top tips for writing great plots >
Read Christopher Edge's blog post on how to plan your 500 Words story >

4. Using weird and wonderful words

From ‘squeegees’ to ‘widdershins’, ‘mulligrubs’ to ‘mugwumps’, hit the dictionary to find out the meanings of some of these funny-sounding words! See if you can find your own strange words to weave into their stories. Could you fit a ‘flibbertigibbet’ into your story, or perhaps find space for a ‘jackanapes’?

For more tips on using vocabulary, take a look at our blog: How to find the perfect words for your story >

How do I submit my story?

The competition opens on 29th January 2019, and will close on Friday 8th March. Once you have written your story, tell your parent, guardian or teacher and they can submit it for you at Submit your 500 Words story. Remember, you must have the permission of a parent, guardian or teacher to submit a story. Good luck!

More useful links

This pack includes writing advice and activities specifically aimed to help you improve on the areas your story will be judged on: originality, plot, characterisation, language, and enjoyment.
Download the guide

Harriet Muncaster's amazing (and free!) guide is bursting with useful advice and activities.
Download the guide

Our creative writing videos are brimming with advice from amazing authors like Ali Sparkes and Malorie Blackman.
Watch the playlist

Author Christopher Edge shares his ideas – and lots of activity sheets – to help you write a great story.
Visit the website

Read and listen to the shortlisted stories from previous years of the competition.
Visit the website

Take a look at these top tips from famous authors, including advice from 500 Words judges.
Visit the website