Start with a Noun and a Verb - Robert Paul Weston

By Robert Paul Weston:

First, you will need a few people for this notebook exercise. Or, if you're on your own, ham it up and play all the parts yourself. Write the words, jumble them up and—hey, presto—you'll end up with a rather odd fairy tale!

Now, feast your eyes on a homemade photo of this, one of my favourite activities to do in writing workshops with young people. I call it: The Fairy Tale Machine.

The Fairy Tale Machine: Nouns and Verbs

The machine is an outlandish contraption and it operates according to the following rules:

1. Give each writer 2 or 4 slips of paper, depending on how many people and papers you have (or if it's just you, prepare a bunch of your own slips and split them evenly into two groups).

2. On each of half of the slips, each person writes a non-living, tangible noun (e.g. - house).

3. On each of the other half of the slips, each person writes a verb (e.g. - jump).

4. Collect all the first group of slips (nouns), fold them so they can't be read, and jumble them together.

5. Do the same with the second group (verbs).

6. Have each writer blindly select one of the nouns and one of the verbs. (It's okay if you get your own.)

7. Use these two words to write the first sentence of a fairy tale, based on this familiar model: "Once upon a time, there was a NOUN that could VERB."

Following our examples: "Once upon a time, there was a house that could jump."

8. Finish the story.

It's always good fun, both to write and to share. Happy Fairy Tale-ing!

Robert Paul Weston is the author of several internationally award-winning novels for children and young adults, including ZORGAMAZOO, THE CREATURE DEPARTMENT, and BLUES FOR ZOEY. You can find out more about him at

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