November is Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). The goal is to come up with a new picture book idea every day. Impossible? You'll find lots of idea starters and writing prompts on the PiBoIdMo site and elsewhere.
Here are some more options for brainstorming ideas. (The following is excerpted from You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. The book is available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. That book and Advanced Plotting will provide lots of help as you write and edit.)
Take some time to relax and think about each question. Delve deep into your memories. Take lots of notes, even if you’re not sure yet whether you want to pursue an idea. You can put each idea on a separate index card, or fill a notebook, or start a file folder with scraps of paper. Do whatever works for you.
Find story and article ideas based on your childhood experiences, fears, dreams, etc.:
· What’s the most fun you ever had as a child? What were your favorite activities?
· What was the hardest thing you had to do as a child?
· What interested you as a child?
· When you were a child, what did you wish would happen?
Find story and article ideas based on the experiences of your children, grandchildren, students, or other young people you know:
· What frightens them?
· What do they enjoy?
· What challenges do they face?
· What do their lives involve – school, sports, family, religion, clubs?
Other questions to consider:
What jobs or experiences have you had that could be a good starting point for an nonfiction book or story?
Do you know about other cultures, or a particular time period?
What genres do you like? Would it be fun to write in that genre?
What genres did you like as a child? Did you love mysteries, ghost stories, fantasies, or science fiction? What were your favorite books? Why?
Look for inspiration in other stories, books, or TV shows. Can you take the premise and write a completely different story? Do you want to write something similar (a clever mystery, a holiday story, or whatever)? Do you want to retell a folktale or fable as a modern version, or with a cultural twist?
What do you see in the news? Is there a timely topic that could make a good article? If you read about kids doing something special, could you turn it into a profile for a children’s magazine? (This wouldn't work as well for a picture book, but I’m being flexible with the concept here.)
How might that news story work as fiction? Could you base a short story or novel on a true story about someone surviving danger or overcoming great odds?
Even the phonebook can provide inspiration. Check the Yellow Pages: Could you interview an automotive painter, animal trainer, or architect for a nonfiction book? What would life be like for a child to have parents in that field?
Wherever you look for ideas, search for things that are scary, exciting or funny – strong emotion makes a strong story.
Don’t preach. Kids don’t want to read about children learning lessons. All stories have themes, but when someone asks you about a mystery you read, you’re probably not going to say, “It was a story about how crime doesn’t pay.” Rather, you’ll talk about the exciting plot, the fascinating characters, perhaps even the unusual setting. A story’s message should be subtle.
Now start brainstorming and have fun!
You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers is available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.