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Day 51 - Short Scary Stories (creative ideas for home schooling)

For anyone new to this blog, the idea is simple - each day my boys (Joshua - 9 and Archie - 8) choose a stimulus that drives the learning. We hope that you enjoy the blog and can take some inspiration from what we love doing - making learning as engaging as possible!


Short Scary Stories

When it comes to narrative, this has to be my personal favourite style of writing. I think that writing style is often linked to what we like reading, and I love nothing more than a great suspenseful thriller!

We hope you enjoy.



  • Suspense toolkit

  • Powerful verbs to show how a character feels

  • Rhetorical questions to reveal thoughts

  • Vocabulary choice to create tension

The idea for today's blog came from me reading the boys some of Kevin Crossley-Holland's and Maggie Pearson's short stories. Their collection of stories in Short! and Short and Shocking! are great fun and offer a lovely interlude between novels.

The very nature of the short stories were an instant hit with the boys, a bit like our 5 sentence stories, as they are all about creating an immediate impact on the reader. As many of you who have followed the blog or know me will know, I am all about the effect words can have on a reader, so this was a match made in heaven.

We began by taking inspiration from Kevin Crossley-Holland's story Talk About Short, which is just a single sentence in length. The challenge was to see if we could come up with some spooky single-sentence stories.

To do this, we brainstormed a suspense toolkit. Here is what we came up with:

Suspense Toolkit:

  • Put MC(s) alone and in the dark

  • Use scary sounds

  • Show the MC's reaction

  • Dramatic fronted adverbials (e.g. Suddenly,... At that moment,...)

  • Hide the threat

  • Intensify the threat by it getting closer

  • Use rhetorical questions to show the thoughts of a character

  • Mirror the feelings of the character in the setting

Whilst the boys are familiar with these tools, they can all be found as a whole-school progression document in Creating Storytellers and Writers.

With the tools identifies, we set to creating our own spooky one-line stories. Here are some of them:

The door was opened yet he stood alone, reliving his nightmare, aware that it was there...watching him.

The branches tore at her vulnerable skin, whipping her for the sins she had not committed...yet.

She felt its breath, heard its growl, smelt its disdain and loathing, then turned and shot.

As she went in, the door opened on its own and slammed shut.

This was such a lot of fun and definitely the basis for a future blog! With the boys tuned into suspenseful writing, we began to write our short stories. I wrote my model, explicitly showing them how to use the toolkit. They then used this to structure their own stories. I have pasted the photo of the shared writing, exemplifying how I used the margin to focus in on the tools.


The Breath

Snap! The sound of a twig breaking underfoot shattered the silence. Wren froze. How had they found her? She knew time was against her, but she had been so careful. Menacing shadows loomed all around. Somebody or something was watching her. It was getting closer; she could feel its presence. Wren held her breath; the breeze died down to nothing. Tentatively, she took a step forward, peering round the trees that hid her from view. A vague shape sliced through the night and disappeared, like a nightmare right in front of her eyes. Wren could feel her stomach churn inside of her. Then she felt its icy breath on her neck.

© Jamie Thomas 2020


The door slammed and there was a sudden howl. The boys shuddered. What was that noise? Why had they come? In the window there were shadows. Something was staring at them. But what? The boys ran and hid behind a gravestone. They crouched down as still as statue. Everything froze. Suddenly, arrows shot from every gravestone. Dodging the arrows, the boys pounced to their feet and ran as fast as their legs could carry them.

by Joshua


A hiss erupted from the darkness. Archie ran. What was that? It wasn't his brother playing tricks on him because he had gone to the dentist. He could feel something slithering through his body. Something was shooting venom inside him. He fainted and the trees turned black. Then he saw the dentist smiling back at him.

by Archie


If you are enjoying this blog, please do share it and spread the word. Thank you to all of you who have got in touch and shared some of the outcomes from what you have tried - we love to hear from you.

Do tune in tomorrow, where we exploring:

Things we miss

My thanks to Pie Corbett, Julia Strong and the Talk for Writing team for inspiring many of the ideas explored in this blog.

This blog is copyright. All materials herein, texts and supporting resources are copyright to Jamie Thomas & Talk for Writing. They may be used to support children/staff/parents in home-learning ONLY and not for commercial gain or for training or sharing widely, in their original form or any variations. They must also not be shared online or on any social media platforms without prior permission.

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