Sitting at the computer with a blank word document in front of you may be intimidating for a writer. You just finished one manuscript, or you’ve hired out to ghostwrite a story, or whatever the reason is, you need to begin writing a children’s story.
Hmmm. What should it be about? You think and think. You gaze out the window. You draw a blank.
Alexander Steele wrote a short article in the October 2010 issue of the Writer, “Where can you find the seeds of a good story?” It was interesting to read that Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick, had his own whaling adventures which he used to create a wonderful and everlasting story. Steele advices, “Probably the most fertile place to look for ideas is right inside the backyard of your own life.”
You might be thinking you don’t have close contact with children and your childhood was boring, so you don’t have any experiences do draw on. Or, you may be so busy living your life and raising your children that you don’t have time to stop and see all the amazing story opportunities that are right in your own backyard. Well, even if these scenarios fit, you can take steps to rectify the situation.
Finding Story Ideas if You Don’t Have Close Contact with Children:
1. Turn on the TV. Yes, this is an excellent source for story ideas, as well as watching children’s behavior. While it may be in the confines of a scripted show, the writers of these shows try to keep it as real as possible. Take note of the situations, the attitudes of the actors, the scenes, and everything else. Even children’s cartoons have engaging storylines. It may be just the spark you need.
2. Go to a playground with notebook in hand. Watch the children play and listen to them talk. If you’re a professional writer (ghostwriter), or you’re already published, consider asking your local age appropriate school if you could sit in the lunchroom during lunch periods. A useful way to get a positive answer would be to first ask if you could give an author or writing presentation to the students. The principal would need to be sure you are a legitimate writer. Please note though, there may be legal and safety aspects a school would need to consider.
Note: If you do go to a playground or other area where there are children, be sure to inform parents/guardians of what you’re doing. It’d be a good idea to bring a copy of one of your published books with you, so they feel comfortable that you are indeed a writer. It’s a crazy world, always take precautions, and keep the safety of our children at the forefront.
3. Read newly published children’s books, and reread ones you enjoyed as a child then reinvent a story. This is a tip I took advantage of with my own children’s fantasy chapter book. I read an old Chinese tale and reinvented it for a children’s book. I was recently reminded of this ‘story idea source’ by multi-published children’s writer Margot Finke.
Finke advised to study books you like; pay attention to why they work, then “craft an entirely new story.” She explained that, “quirky and fresh” wins publishing contracts today.
Finding Story Ideas if You Do Have Close Contact with Children
1. Study the children you do have contact with, whether your own children, your grandchildren, or other relatives. Children are an amazing source of inspiration and ideas. They have an innate ability to make you feel: just looking at a picture of children may make you smile; hearing a baby laugh can actually make you laugh.
Watch the children, notice their mannerisms, body language, movements, attitudes and emotions, speech, and their interactions with other children and adults. You’ll not only get story ideas, you’ll also get dialogue and ‘showing’ descriptions.
2. If you have regular contact with children, you really shouldn’t need any other steps, just listen, observe, and take notes. But, if the character’s age of your new story differs from the ages of the children you see, use the steps noted above.
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