For some authors, finding ideas can be one of the most difficult aspects of writing. The dreaded Writer’s Block can hit
anyone at anytime. If you are still uninspired after flipping through your ideas section of your notebook collection, try
some of these…
This is a widely used trigger for children’s writers. Put yourself in the place of the child protagonist. Now take a normal,
everyday situation and ask ‘what if?’
- You are on the way to the beach. You are in the front seat and your brother and his friend are in the back.
your mum parks the car at the beach and instead of two boys in the backseat, there are three?
What if …
- Your cousin calls you to ask if you want to come over. You say yes and hop on your bike.
you arrive at your cousins house and there’s an ambulance parked in the driveway?
What if …
- You get on the bus to go to school one day.
there is a new bus driver and he takes a wrong turn and heads out of the city?
What if …
- You sit down to do your homework.
instead of your math homework, you are looking at the answer sheet to tomorrow’s test?
A great way to get ideas is to use your own experiences. Return to your childhood.
Remember what it felt like when you were the only kid in sport who couldn’t climb the rope?
Sit at your desk in Grade Three and listen to the sound of Mrs. Bridden’s shoes as they clicked toward your desk. Is
your note from Tracey Gilman covered?
Can you smell the chalk dust? The chips from the lunchroom? The medicated cream that Tommy Pincer’s mum slathers
behind his ears every day?
Can you remember how it felt when you went home from school one day and your mum was missing? She was only next-
door, but do you remember the feeling? How bubbles bounced around in your stomach, and how the sound of the clock
ticking in the kitchen was deafening? Do you remember how you heard the sound of the squeaky gate outside and then
your mum’s voice calling you? Were you a little angry? Relieved? Tearful?
Remember it all. Then give your feelings and your memories to your characters.
Get out and live
Collect more personal experiences.
Spending hours and hours at a computer screen can be productive, but if that’s all a children’s writer ever does,
chances are, the imaginative and believable material will eventually dry up. Some of the most important time for a writer
is not actually sitting at a desk, but allowing the mind to create while it’s busy with the task of living.
The more people you meet or see, the more characters you will be able to create. The more emotions you experience,
positive and negative, the more emotions you can pass on to your characters.
The more experiences you have, the more interesting your writing will be.
Character driven ideas
Instead of deciding on a storyline and then creating a character that fits, you can also develop your character first. A
unique character with a definite personality can be strong enough to write the story without you. Know your protagonist
well, put him in a setting with a few others sprinkled around and then allow him to think for himself. Make sure that his
actions are consistent with his personality and give him some freedom.
Ten-year-old Jason walks into his new school and straight into the wrong classroom. What would he do? Is he timid and
frightened of his own shadow? Is he cocky and self-assured? Is he a comedian? If you don’t know what he would do,
then you may not know your character well enough.
Develop your characters completely and let them do their thing. Trust them.
More places to find ideas
Take snippets or single elements from any of the following places and expand on them. Give them a new twist or
- Newspaper articles
- ‘On this day today…’ history lists.
- The Internet: Type in a word and allow your mind to wander
- News programs
- Shopping centres
Ideas surround you. Find them, change them, twist them and they're yours.
Finding Ideas: Beating the Block