MG Writers’ Toolkit: Recognizing Story Inspiration (even when it’s strange)

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Where do writers get their ideas? Neil Gaiman puts it best.

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”

Being aware of the world around you can open a writer to wonderful story ideas, intriguing characters, or crazy plot twists. Recognizing these “light bulb” moments is important to fueling your creative process; even when they come from strangest things.

Here are some of my favorite strange things that have inspired books for children.

A BET – Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham was inspired by a bet. Someone bet that Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) couldn’t write a book with just 50 words! Guess what? He did.

A KERNEL OF POPCORN – From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E. L. Konigsburg) was inspired by a kernel of popcorn she saw on a blue chair at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. She wanted to know who left it there and why. Her story followed.

A PLANE CRASH – The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) was inspired when the author crashed in the Sahara desert! Don’t try that at home.

A MEDICAL CONDITION – The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster) was inspired by a medial condition. Juster suffered from: synesthesia. He grew out of it, but when he was young he associated numbers with colors. Good thing for us!

A TASTE TEST – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl) was inspired by chocolate! A manufacturer of chocolate Cadbury taste tested candy bars at his school. If only all schools were like that!

We would love to hear some of your “inspiration” stories. Share in the comments what was the strangest thing that inspired your stories?


One Comment

  1. L.C. Mohr

    Missing my bus one morning on the way to work led to a short mystery I titled “Not Yet,” in which my protagonist escapes a tragic ending … for the moment.

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