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The Art and Craft of Children’s Fiction 1 (Online)

Course Times & Enrolment

Mondays from 15th April 2024 (Code CW102-301) Mondays from
15th April 2024 6:30pm - 8:30pm • (10 classes)
Online • Tutor: Janis Mackay MA
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

Children’s fiction is enjoying a huge popularity but much of this enthusiasm lacks a modern awareness. This course will give you a good grounding in the craft. It will make you aware of contemporary children’s fiction and equip you with the tools to succeed in this highly competitive world.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

Students will need to be able to confidently use videoconferencing software and be comfortable with using websites.

Special Information

In order to participate in this course, you will need access to a computer with a speaker and an internet connection.

Content of Course

1. Remembering childhood. Write a short piece where you evoke the world of your childhood.

2. Remembering the heroes and heroines of our childhood. Casting children as lead characters. Write a short character study.

3. Learning the structure of story writing. The plot structure of the quest – Give your character one or two obstacles.

4. Fantasy and magic and their rules in stories for children. Create a fantasy story world. Special powers and secret charms: write a short magical story.

5. Exploring children’s reality fiction; cf Jacqueline Wilson’s ‘Worry Website’. Write a short reality fiction piece.

6. Animals in children’s fiction, in the 6 – 8 age range, cf The World according to Humprey by Betty Birney. Write a short piece where an animal is the main character.

7. Action and how do you ensure your characters are DOING things? Write a dynamic short story – adding elements learnt so far.

8. Some do’s and don’ts of writing for children (Fowler’s Preferences, the Beast Quest stories by Adam Blade and ‘Artemis Fowl’ by Eoin Colfer). Writing for different age groups.

9. Ancient myths and legends as ideas for contemporary children’s fiction. Taking a myth or legend as a spring-board for a contemporary story.

10. Introducing the curriculum for excellence and what children in Scottish schools are reading. Discussing ways of developing further.

Teaching method(s)

This course will be delivered via live online sessions. Seminars, discussion, writing in class, reading of a set text, and reading of student’s work. Peer reading groups where students read and feedback to each other.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of the styles and genres in the literature for children;

  • Show, via their writing, an appreciation of age appropriateness, and an understanding of children today;

  • Write a contemporary story fitting for modern children, age appropriate. This may take the form of a first chapter of a children’s novel;

  • Explain how they might develop this piece of work, and how they might approach the market to find a possible outlet for this work.


Core Readings


  • Morpurgo, M., 2007. War Horse. Egmont.

Extracts from the following novels will also be provided during the course:

  • Birney, B., 2006. The World According to Humphrey. Faber & Faber.

  • Colfer, E., 2006. Artemis Fowl. Puffin.

  • Blade, A., 2007. Tagus the horse man – Beast Quest. Orchard.

  • Stevenson, R.L., 2007. Kidnapped. Penguin Popular Classics.

  • Wilson, J., 2008. The Worry Website. Yearling.

  • Kinney, J., 2009. The ugly truth – diary of a wimpy kid. Puffin.

  • Mackay, J., 2011. Magnus Fin and the Moonlight Mission. Floris Books.


  • Grimms Fairy tales. 2007. Penguin Popular classics.

  • Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter (any) Bloomsbury.

  • Pullman, P., 2007, Northern Lights. His Dark Materials, Scholastic.

  • Cassidy, C., 2009, Ginger Snaps. Puffin.

  • Mackay, J., 2009, Magnus Fin and the Ocean Quest, Floris.

Web Sources

As well as being excellent and local, the above web sources provide links to other websites concerned with writing fiction for children.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.