Writing Tip: Near and Dear Items

As a language arts teacher and writing coach, I am always searching for ideas to help students keep writing. Many students love writing stories, but once the initial energy of the new idea wears off, they often get stuck or wander away from the plot. Near and Dear Items is one of my favorite mini-lessons, partly because students easily relate to it. They have their Near and Dear Items and understand at visceral levels what it would mean to lose these items.

Near and Dear Items are objects that have special meaning to a main character, often family heirlooms, keepsakes, or souvenirs that have important connections for the character. They may be simple items, magical objects, may contain an important code or map, or otherwise have a special significance to the character, etc. Because of this, Near and Dear Items are often priceless, and the main character(s) will do almost anything to get them back.

Like the Writing Tip: The Cute and Furry, these near and dear items often provide four fantastic writing opportunities:

  1. the story of the item and why it’s meaningful, 
  2. a scene where it gets stolen or lost,
  3. a scene where it is recovered,
  4. and a scene near the end of the story where the item becomes remarkably useful.

Here are some random examples, easily modified for most stories. Have students roll a twenty-sided die if they want to have some creative fun!




 A deceased grandmother’s silver comb that somehow always makes the main character’s hair exactly perfect.


 A missing grandfather’s pocket watch that never shows the correct time. What time is it actually showing and why is it  



 A stone from the last family vacation before the family split up…


 A “broken” wand that mysteriously still works under special circumstances.


 A fidget toy or gift given to the main character by a popular teacher who went missing. 


 A quill and ink from a great grandmother who was supposedly a famous writer of stories about fairies. Were those stories



 A family portrait before someone went missing…


 A collar from the family’s first pet.


 A map found in the attic of an eccentric uncle who lived on a small island.


 A gold ring inset with a type of precious stone no one has seen before.  


 A picture signed by a famous actor or musician.


 The queen of hearts card from a deck of playing cards given to the main character by a missing aunt who was a



 A small box with seven special souvenirs, one from each continent.


 A bracelet from a best friend who moved away a few years ago.


 A baseball signed by Babe Ruth, or a hockey puck sign by Wayne Gretzky, or a miniature basketball signed by Michael

 Jordan, etc.


 A music box that mysteriously plays old nursery rhymes and folk songs; the lyrics are somehow clues in the story.


 A family photo album with the only known pictures of ancestors. Somehow, the whenever the MC tries to take photos of

 the album, they never turn out…


 A coin with a mistake minted on it. Somehow it symbolizes the mistakes that the main character’s family made.


 An old board game marble from a memorable game with an old friend.


 A pressed flower in a wooden frame given to the MC by an eccentric neighbor.


Image by Çiğdem Onur - Pixabay


Near and dear, writing

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