Creating Ideas for Children’s Books
by Robyn Opie
Ideas are everywhere. All of the time. It’s our job, as authors writing for children, to find some ideas and turn them into entertaining stories.
The most common sources of inspiration include: our experiences and personalities, children, family, pets, friends, conversations, television, newspapers, books etc.
I’ve never had any trouble finding ideas for children’s stories. My problem is finding time to write all of the stories.
I believe that the reason I come up with so many ideas for children’s books is simple; I’m looking or them. I want them. I need them. I’m actively seeking them. I’m open to the possibilities. I’m thinking and behaving as a writer.
During conversations with friends, I sometimes find myself saying, “I like that. I might use it in a children’s story one day.” When I see something that appeals to me I often wonder how I can turn it into a children’s story.
I look at ordinary things and ask questions. Sometimes my questions become a little bizarre. I often look for the funny side of situations or objects.
There have been times when I’ve chosen a popular subject, such as dinosaurs, then asked myself for a story on that subject. And other occasions when I’ve taken an old idea and given it a new and different life.
The simplest way to explain what I mean by the above statements is to share my personal experience with writing for children. The following are the ideas behind some of my stories:
But first . . . I’m sitting in my study, writing this article. I look around the room and see the fireplace. What if the fireplace was a door to another place or world? What if I heard noises coming from the fireplace? And, when I investigate, I find Santa Claus trapped in my chimney. There are ideas everywhere. Just look for them – and ask questions.
My easy reader Sam’s Dinosaur Bone originated from word association. I wanted to write a story about dinosaurs. My experience with dinosaurs was limited to museums. Mmmm . . . dinosaurs, museums, a child going on an excursion to a museum, being told that dinosaur fossils are found in the ground. Are there dinosaur fossils in his backyard?
I recently took an old idea, which I love, Henny Penny’s The Sky Is Falling, and made it my own in my easy reader Down the Well. The hen hears a noise coming from the well. She yells down the well and a voice yells back. Someone must have fallen down the well!
I remember times, as a child, when I wanted to play with someone but no one was available. My friends and family were doing chores, playing sport, visiting friends, on holidays etc. My easy reader Will You Play? was inspired by this memory. The farm animals are too busy to play with the dog. Will he find someone to play with?
Do you have fears? I do. My novel Backstage Betrayal deals with my fear of being locked in a public toilet. (I won’t say any more as it’s rather embarrassing.)
I have a definite dislike of spiders. I don’t fear them. I don’t hate them. I just prefer to not be in the same vicinity as a spider. This preference inspired my easy reader Jo and the Spider. Jo sees a spider in her bedroom. When she returns with her dad, the spider is gone. Where is it?
One night I went to the cupboard for a snack and saw a jar of honey. I wondered what it would be like to be honey – sticky, moist, gooey, sloppy, warm, sweet etc. But there was one big problem: you’d get eaten. From those thoughts came my book Mrs Twitch and the Small Black Box. Jess uses Mrs Twitch’s invention, the small black box, to become honey. She’s in danger of being eaten by her father.
A publisher asked me to write a number of non-fiction books for children. I sat at the kitchen table, wondering what subjects I could tackle, when I thought about milk. Then I decided that milk was too boring. It had been done to death etc. Green milk would be interesting, though. But wouldn’t green milk be Martian milk? This idea was the beginning of my novel Martian Milk. Paul doesn’t want to try Martian Milk because he’s afraid it will turn him into a Martian.
The Mad Mower came from my desire to have a twin to do all the boring things in life like housework, paying bills and walking my dogs, while I did all the fun things like going out with friends, watching football and reading. Tony creates a computer double and asks him to do various chores. Ah, if only life was that easy . . .
Have you ever had trouble sleeping and wished that you had someone to pass the time with, but everyone is asleep? In my easy-reader Chick Catches Dinner, the little chick can’t sleep and goes searching for company. She finds Hoot, a little owl, and has a fun but tiring night.
I was reading a children’s book one afternoon. The child in the story had a teddy bear. After reading the words teddy bear, I thought to myself that I’d like to write a story about a teddy bear. My next story was called Old Teddy and was followed by Teddy’s Sticky Mess.
I was watching the television news one evening and saw a story on a seagull problem in a nearby town. The greedy seagulls had become a nuisance to residents and tourists. My story The Greedy Seagulls is nearing completion.
So, you see, ideas are all around us. It’s your job as an author writing for children to interpret the information you see around you and turn it into your own creation!
© Copyright Robyn Opie. All Rights Reserved.