Writing Challenge

App review by
Stacy Zeiger, Common Sense Media
Writing Challenge App Poster Image
Motivating story starter helps teen writers get creative.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn how to write creatively and how to be disciplined in their writing habits. As they receive new scenarios and story descriptions, kids may find that their stories become more than could ever have imagined, boosting confidence in their writing skills and motivating them to write even more. Becoming a strong writer takes practice. Kids will learn to build their writing skills by getting in plenty of writing practice as they explore the creative scenarios and other suggestions offered by Writing Challenge. With the help of time limits, Writing Challenge lets kids write in manageable blocks, keeping writing enjoyable instead of it becoming overwhelming.

Ease of Play

A simple design allows the writing process to start quickly. Short step-by-step tutorial helps those who need a little extra help.

Violence

Scenarios may include or lead to instances of mild violence and fantasy violence, including content that features vampires and other fantasy creatures and the suggestion of stories centered on killing another character.

Sex

A few scenarios encourage writing about actions such as kissing or romantic relationships, which may not be appropriate for younger kids.

Language

Minor instances of adult language, such as, "Start writing a story that begins with the dialogue, 'Oh, hell! What have you done?'"

Consumerism

Links to other apps and websites are included in the settings.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Scenarios may lead to stories that include suggestive activities.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Writing Challenge is a fun story-idea generator that should be used with some parental supervision. Some of the scenarios can lead to suggestive stories or those that deal with complex moral issues, which older writers may be able to handle appropriately. Parents should open the lines of communication and encourage teens to share what they're writing about while still allowing them to be creative.

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What's it about?

Upon opening WRITING CHALLENGE, kids are presented with a giant orange start button; they'll click it and see a series of suggestions. Suggestions come in the form of settings, conflicts, vocabulary words, or unique lines of dialogue that can help writers start a story. For example, settings might include "in a jail" or "on a distant planet," while conflicts include situations such as "suffers a serious accident," or "receives a threatening message." Other ideas offered might include vocabulary words such as "malicious," "smoker," "horseman," or "peanut" as well as specific lines of dialogue. Kids won't input their writing into the app; they can put its ideas to work in a notebook or another program. After the prompt ideas are listed, students write on the selected prompt for a set amount of time and, when the time is up, select another idea to add to the story. They can stop after a few rounds or keep their stories going for pages.

Is it any good?

Writing Challenge relies on its timer feature to help incite ideas on the spot, which can be just what some kids need when trying to write a story. Although enthusiastic writers can choose longer time limits to further develop an idea, shorter time limits might help encourage reluctant writers to simply write a little at a time. In either case, the timer helps give each prompt a sense of urgency, encouraging kids to simply get their ideas down on paper. As they add steps, kids can move beyond formulaic stories and traditional plot patterns, developing highly creative narratives. Writing Challenge's goal is to help kids get started, and it does this well. However, as students are likely to write beyond a story's beginning, the app might benefit from extensions to help guide students further in the process. Information and tips on plot structure, narrative arc, or even the process of revision could make for nice additions. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how writers come up with their ideas. Is it "cheating" to use a story starter like this one to get creative juices flowing, or is it a helpful tool?

  • Do an "exquisite corpse" writing exercise with the whole family. One person writes a sentence of a story, folds the paper down to hide it, and hands it to the next person, who can peek at only the previous sentence, then add his or her own, and so on. 

App details

For kids who love creative writing

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