Finding Story Inspiration

For the month of January I’m taking part in a picture book exercise called “Story Storm.” The brainchild of children’s author Tara Lazar (7 Ate 9), the exercise asks aspiring, published and wannabe picture book authors to come up with 1 potential story idea or character sketch each day for the month of January.

The idea, as I understand it, is that by the time the month is done, you have a wealth of potential ideas that you can then work on throughout the year. Each day on her website, Lazar posts another guest post from a children’s author to guide writers on this journey.

My first few attempts at brainstorming weren’t particularly good, which is fine, this is an exercise after all. One idea in particular was an exercise in everything not to do if you want to write a picture book, which I discovered as a I read one of the Lazar’s guest posts.

As the month is going on and I’m reading and learning, I have come up with a few ideas that will merit further writing work later this year. One of which I am really, really excited about!

Even more important that just coming up with a list of 30 ideas (you get a day off at some point during the month), is that I’m learning how to come up with ideas. I’m listening to something or reading about something and I am learning to spin it for a potential book idea.

For instance, a news story on the radio the other day was about a moose who was walking around a hospital in Anchorage. Wow! Does that have a children’s book potential all over it or what?

Another idea came from a conversation with a friend who was looking for a particular book – she was thinking chapter book, but I could already envision a children’s nonfiction picture book.

So here’s today’s challenge regardless of what you write: read, listen, watch with an eye toward uncovering a hidden kernel of a potential story. Jot your idea down on your computer, in a notebook, on a square in your day planner, then try and come up with another idea tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that. By doing so, you’ll ensure that when you are having a hard time filling the story water well, you’ll have some potential ideas to explore. Have fun!

Talkback: If you have some great ways to brainstorm story ideas, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.

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