Posted in Inspiration, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Tools

Idea Generation – Words and First Lines

Sometimes the ideas just don’t come. But one thing I know is ideas breed other ideas. As John Steinbeck said, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

Here are a couple ways to get your mind working:

WORD LISTS

Make up long lists of….

  • specific places.
    • where you’ve been.
    • from childhood (include dramatic places where you or someone else was worried, afraid, injured, etc.).
    • places important to you now.
    • where you’d like to be (research probably needed).
  • specific nouns.
  • active verbs.
  • specific situations or problems.
  • talents and skills.
  • habits and quirks.
  1. Pick items from three or four lists and see what happens when you put them together.
  2. Do you come up with an opening for a story? Interesting ideas for a character or a problem? A way a character could solve a problem? A setting? An antagonist?
  3. Experiment with these ideas and see where they take you. Enjoy playing around.

OPENING LINES

Make up a list of first lines without worrying whether or not you’d actually want to use them. Make them compelling and interesting.

  1. If you need a starting point, look at famous opening lines and reimagine them.
    • You can search online and find many. Here’s one source: https://www.boredpanda.com/famous-books-first-lines/
      • Imagine how your character, if you have one already, might say something similar.
      • Imagine how a specific animal might say it.
      • Put it in picture book language.
      • Make something serious funny or vice versa.
      • Have fun—there are no rules.
  2. When you’ve got a good number, read through them again.
  3. Ask yourself questions such as…
    • Which ones catch my attention?
    • Which ones make me laugh?
    • Which ones make me want to know more?
    • Which ones make me sad?
    • Which are boring?
  4. Pick a couple of favorite opening lines. Can you expand them into a paragraph or more? If you find ideas are flowing, keep going to see how far it takes you.
  5. Set the list and the paragraphs aside.
  6. If any ideas keep “haunting” you, consider how to make them a complete project.
  7. Look at the list again at a later date. Do the same lines grab you or do different ones? If different lines grab you, expand those.
  8. Look at the paragraphs again at a later date. Does more scene unfold in your mind? Write and see where you go.

I ended up writing a whole novel inspired by a writing exercise. Others have inspired picture books. Yet, others sent me back to the writing desk to works-in-progress. And at the very least, they got me putting words on a page.

As Louis L’Amour said, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the tap is turned on.”

Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

Claudia & Moth

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Claudia & Moth (Viking, 2017) by Jennifer Hansen Rolli is a deceptively simple picture book.

Claudia loves butterflies. She wants to take them home. Her dad gives her a paintbox and now she gets to take butterflies home in her pictures. But then winter comes…

I don’t want to spoil the story ending by telling you more. But I love when Claudia sees the beauty of Moth.

You can read about the author/illustrator in this article and see her books here.

Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

Federico and the Wolf

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Federico and the Wolf by Rebecca J. Gomez and illustrated by Elisa Chavarri is a recognizable old tale with several new twists.

First, is the setting and main characters. It’s modern times in a Spanish speaking village, with a boy (niño) and his grandfather (Abuelo) and the wolf (lobo). That means we have all the lovely Spanish that a reader can get by context. And some language is shown in pictures.

Then, the story is written in rhyme. And it has a surprise ending. Federico saves Abuelo, but the story isn’t as violent as the original–no axes.

This is a fun retelling that makes me smile.

Author Rebecca J. Gomez is the author of a number of picture books. See them here on the left side of the main page of her website. Learn more about Rebecca here and check out her links to posts to help other writers here.

Illustrator Elisa Chavarri is originally from Lima, Peru–read more about her here and you’ll also see a bunch of titles she’s illustrated. Check out a number of her illustrations here. I love the cheerfulness and humor of her illustrations in this book.

Bonus: Pronunciation guide and definitions of Spanish words used are in the back of the book. Plus there’s a recipe for pico. Yum.