Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 15 -- Story Starters -- Help!

When a kernel of a story idea strikes me I’m ready to “run,” but finding that spark can be tough.  The recent survey indicates others share this frustration.  What to do?

The most comprehensive, intriguing source I’ve found for brainstorming is the story-starter link created by PB author (over 70 books!) and writing professor, Rick Walton.  We mentioned him on the “Story Starter” page of our website, so maybe many of you have already wandered through his labyrinth.

If not, let me tempt you with some choices along the route:

10 choices under "Start with a . . . Character, Problem, Phrase, etc."

Lists galore like:
470 Issues in kids’ lives, 431 Locations, 651 Things Kids Do, 122 Kids’ Songs/First Lines, 855 Things, Life-Story Triggers.

WARNING:  Be sure to drop breadcrumbs along the route, so you can find your way back out.  Enjoy your journey! 

Here’re ways stories have popped into my brain: 

A fully-formed rhyming couplet.
An engaging character.  Or an insistent character.
A perfect title.
An intriguing setting.
A dedication.  (“. . . to my pesky younger brother” or “to my oh-so-perfect older sister”)
A hilarious, appropriate, surprising ending. 
An impossible situation or dilemma.
A childhood memory.
A story from the newspaper.  (Today’s paper quoted a five-year old feeding bread to geese at the park.  “Mom, all the birds love me!”)

What sparks your stories? What triggers an idea? What pops into your brain?


  1. During my training I came up with plenty of PB ideas - more than enough for twenty six days. And then the marathon began - I used a few and had no connection to the rest. They just didn't work for me. Yesterday I struggled for something new and again today. I went on the site for Rick Walton and found it quite helpful. I didn't use anything he listed, but I put myself in one of the directions he pointed to - out came a story...and I think I like it.

  2. I'd be interested to know how much time every day marathoners are putting into their stories. Would it be possible to put that into the next weekly tally?

  3. I like to look through my list of titles and see which trigger my creativity. I also like to just start typing a title on a blank page. I did that today with the title Dean and Bean in the Zone. Then I made up a story in rhymes. No outline, just ideas. My stories written this way need rewrites, but the main plot points are discovered.

  4. One of mine started with a punchline and then I built the story backwards. . . Another I tried a different format - a letter. I'm having fun just trying things I've never tried before!

  5. I found this Guest Blogpost by Picture Book Author Samantha R. Vamos to be helpful, as well. She asks the question, "What If?"
    @Marybeth -- I am finding the same thing. I look through my ideas and am finding some that I am not connecting with. But I am sure that is part of the process. It's a journey :).
    @Pica -- I've been putting a lot of time into my stories each day between writing, thinking and researching. I'm using it to get into a daily habit that I will replace next month with revising and/or marketing.
    @Juliann -- One of the best things about this Marathon is that I have been allowing myself the freedom to try things that I wouldn't have tried before, which I may not have done if I was only going to write one new story, kwim?

  6. Oops - here's the post!