How to Write Children’s Picture Books: Where Do Ideas Come From? (Part 1)

 

by Yvonne Blackwood

You’ve probably heard Christopher Hitchens’ quote many times, “Everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” You have searched the recesses of your mind and concluded that this quote does not apply to you; you have a book in you and it must be written. The idea is frustrating you because it’s a children’s story and you have no clue where to begin.

Fear not! You have come to the right blog.

 

Where do ideas come from?

Every journey begins with a first step, and so too, every story begins with an idea. But where do ideas come from?

Ideas can come to you from out of the blue. This happened to me as I walked along a major street and spotted some squirrels frolicking in a park in the city. “Write a children’s book about a squirrel living in a city,” the idea said. I incorporated the idea into writing Nosey Charlie Comes To Town, part of a series. But ideas don’t always appear magically this way. If you want to write your first children’s picture book and no ideas are percolating in your head, you need help.

The writing industry employs all kinds of methods to generate ideas, but first you must decide if your story will be children’s non-fiction or fiction. If you plan to write non-fiction, your story will be based on things or people in real life, therefore, it will be a matter of selecting a subject, researching it, using your own knowledge, and determining the angle you wish to focus on.

In this article and subsequent ones, my focus will be on fiction stories in which you use your wild imagination to concoct the narrative.

 

IDEA GENERATION

You have been around for a while and you have lived a full live, or not! You have many experiences. You could use some of these experiences, or tap into your more recent exciting forays, or delve into your childhood days for story ideas. You are sure to find past experiences or events that you can shape into a new children’s story. Remember when you first attended kindergarten and you held onto your mother and wouldn’t let go? You can build upon such an idea.

Another way to generate ideas is to make old stories new. In other words, come up with a new way of looking at an old story. Angela Carter is excellent at doing this, to the extent that when I read her short story “The Bloody Chamber,” I scarcely recognized Bluebeard!

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun, therefore, all the ideas you need are floating around somewhere. For example, you may be able to write a story similar to Goldilocks, but instead of three bears, you could write about three raccoons and they are brothers—not Mama and Papa, and baby. In addition, it’s not a pretty golden-haired girl who comes upon the house in the woods, but a mischievous boy.

Or, how about an intriguing story in the news recently? You could mold it into a tale of pure joy by changing the characters, adding dialogue, and adding character idiosyncrasies—the potential is limitless. If these ideas do not work, you can resort to some proven methods such as brainstorming, mind mapping, book-storming, visual prompts—photographs, and even musical prompts.

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Yvonne Blackwood. Yvonne is an author, award-winning short story writer, columnist, blogger, world traveler, and retired banker. Her published adult books include Into Africa a Personal Journey and the hilarious Will That Be Cash or Cuffs? Yvonne is a contributor to the fabulous anthology Canadian Voices. She also has written articles for several newspapers including Canada’s largest newspaper, the Toronto Star.

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7 thoughts on “How to Write Children’s Picture Books: Where Do Ideas Come From? (Part 1)”

  1. After finishing my second novel, a sequel, I’d the desire to do something different. At 49 years old, my first thought was: divorce, red sports car, blonde 20-yr old girlfriend.

    That’s pricy, I thought. How about making a kid’s book?

    I’d a good start on my future history, Machine Civilization, over two books, so there must be something…. Echoing this article: there’s nothing new under the sun. I grabbed the “little girl” character and went in search of an illustrator.

    Calling “Henge’s Big Day!” a 2nd grade reader allowed me to keep things very simple. But: I’d a pre-set cast and scenery, so it was only a matter of raising the curtain.

    I’m sure many of your stories contain the seed of a little kid’s book, too! Sit back, preferably with a Manhattan, now that the weather’s cooling, and free your mind. Let’s change the world!

    https://tinyurl.com/yaoxqrwo

    Like

  2. Ideas are everywhere. Everyone has random thoughts, but most simply let them float away, disappearing into the either. That’s why it’s good to always have something to record with; either on paper, or as a text on a cell phone, or an audio recording. Jot down the random thoughts, and save them for later, when you browse through your own ideas like a kid in a candy store.

    Like

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