Generating Ideas: Three Strategies from PiBoIdMo

In November, I participated in Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), hosted by Tara Lazar.  The goal of PiBoIdMo is, after reading a month’s worth of blog posts and writing in your writer’s notebook each day, to walk away with at least 31 possible picture book ideas.  It worked!  By month’s end, I had written down 31 ideas.  Some of my ideas are terrible (a spider who is afraid of tornadoes), and some of my ideas are really, really good (those are confidential for now).  Along the way, I also learned a few idea-generating strategies to share with students.

1.  List personality traits and add a conflicting goal

This strategy begins with listing some personality traits.  I started with some of my own:
nerdy book lover

Then, list goals which are in direct opposition to those traits:

organized – character must live through a day of messes to learn that messy can mean fun
honest – character is put in a situation where lying seems like the better choice

This was really fun to do and led to some interesting plot developments.

2.  List things you adore, loathe, and laugh at.
Here is part of my notebook entry from that day:

Loathe, Love, and Lol

You can see just by listing a couple of words under each heading, I already started generating story ideas.  Perhaps a story about a curly-haired toddler who misuses her words?  Or a demanding toddler who loves to make-believe, driving her family crazy?

3.  Take a snippet of an idea and brainstorm, “What could happen next?”
For example, my snippet of an idea was a young child pretending to walk a high wire across her living room floor.  What could happen next?

  • she could fall and cry
  • she could also pretend to be a race car driver, a doctor, a mom
  • her little sister could join in the fun
  • she could grow up in a flash forward

Then, choose one of those routes and write both an expected and an unexpected ending to the story.  I can’t share with you the outcome of this strategy from my notebook; it just might be a picture book in progress.

All of the daily PiBoIdMo blog posts were inspiring.  I have a long list of possible story ideas, and I feel more confident helping students generate story ideas.