How To Generate Picture Book Ideas

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Are you looking for fresh, exciting children's book ideas?

The truth is ideas are floating around you all the time, waiting to be caught. You just need to hone your idea receptors and capture them! We've included 6 of our favorite idea generating activities below.

PRO TIP
Install an app like google docs, evernote, or notepad on your phone and start a "Story Ideas" document. Every time an idea saunters by you, grab it and jot it down!

Idea Generator #1: Listen to Children

If you have children, work, or volunteer with children, you know they say (and do!) some interesting things. One important component of any good children's book idea is to make it kid relatable. What is more kid relatable than a real life situation from a real life kid?!?

Listen for those moments that make them laugh and the ones that make you laugh. Notice word mispronunciations, extreme emotions, imaginative games. Pay attention to what causes tears and frustrations as much as what leads to joy.

Most importantly, don't focus on the big moments. Look at the small moments. Too often we overlook the tiny things that happen each day. They aren't “important” in our adult eyes but are when you see them from a kid's perspective. Shoelaces that just won't tie, a vegetable that dares to cross the plate and touch the fruit, a scratchy sweater. Within each and every moment, lives a story.

Idea Generator #2: Tapping Into Your Childhood

Journaling about emotional (triumphant, devastating, funny, frustrating, embarrassing, etc.) experiences from your own childhood can spark an idea. These memories were so important to your little-kid self that you remembered them all the way until now. Why?

When you think of those stories from childhood what do you remember thinking and feeling? The experiences of childhood are universal. Find that thread of truth and call it an idea.

 Idea Generator #3: Arree's Post-it Note Exercise

Arree does a fantastic idea brainstorming activity called the Post-It Note Exercise in his Crafting Picture Book Stories course. It is a combination of collage and brainstorming that always yields rewarding “Aha!” moments. It's great to do with friends (or better yet, kids!

THE POST-IT NOTE EXERCISE

Time required: 1 hour
Materials Needed:

  • Post-its (lots)
  • Pens
  • A timer
  • Friends or children (optional but more fun)
  • A wall or place work on
post-it note activity_combined ideas

BRAINSTORMING STEPS:

  1. Start a 10 minute timer.
  2. Brainstorm one word characters and write down each on a post-it note. For example: “Toast” or “Alligator.” Think of more than just animals, include objects like cars, flowers or people. (You can draw them too if you like!)
  3. Repeat steps  1-3 to brainstorm places.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 to brainstorm problems that characters may have. For example: not getting what you want, being lost, feeling sad, misunderstood, etc.
post-it note activity_settings
post-it activity_problems

Collage Steps:

  1. Place all the post-its on a wall. Group the post-its together by category.
  2. Overlap the same/similar post-its together. For example, if you wrote “rat” and someone wrote “mice,” you can place those two characters together.
  3. Take a step back and look at the whole wall. Let your mind wander while reading the post-its.
  4. See if you can “collage” together some interesting story concepts. This is usually a fun step.
  5. Once you have an idea for a story, group the post-its together.
  6. Fill in the missing GAPS. Write down the inciting incident, the escalation, and the resolution on post-its as they come to you. (Fun, right?)
  7. Pick your favorites and take a picture of them.

PRO TIP
Don't judge these ideas at all until the very end. Just let your imagination take you where it wants to take you. Idea doesn't make sense? Who cares!? Physically impossible? Even better!

 Idea Generator #4: Use Our Idea Generator!

Sometimes you don't have eleventy-billion post-its laying around or you just need a quick brainstorm session while you're waiting to pump gas. Whatever the reason, you can use our fun idea generator to quickly spark your creativity.

It works just like the Post-It Note Exercise. Click the “Generate Idea” button and watch a random combination of characters, settings, and problems become the inspiration for your next manuscript.

Hidden

 Idea Generator #5: Use A Writing Prompt

Sometimes you just need a good ol' fashioned writing prompt. In this video we put together 6 of our favorite writing prompt activities.

 Idea Generator #6: The Storystorm Challenge

If you've never participated in Tara Lazar's Storystorm challenge, then I'm excited to introduce you to my favorite blog for generating children's book ideas. The whole concept behind Storystorm is to come up with a bunch of story ideas in January that you can write throughout the year.

One of Storystorm's most popular posts was Debbie Ridpath Ohi's metaphorical post on how developing an idea is like baking a cake. This post is so good that Tara has shared it twice! It might help you figure out what to do next. Tara has hundreds of wonderful posts by successful industry professionals on her blog.

You've got ideas . . . now what do you do with them?

Now that you're chock-a-block full of story ideas, you've got to take the next step and write the story! If you haven't already explored our How To Write A Children's Book article you should take a peek. It will walk you through all the picture book storytelling basics.

PRO TIP
The greatest part about these generators is that you can use them over and over again. Bookmark this page and whenever you're feeling stuck in a rut, pop over and let your imagination run wild.

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Creafting Picture Book Stories

SIGNATURE COURSE

with Arree Chung

Courses are only available with a Makers Membership.

Transform Your Idea Into A Picture Book Story!

ABOUT THIS COURSE

Learn how to develop healthy work habits, brainstorm great ideas, and work on one idea until you turn it into a picture book story.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

  • A Creative Process for Developing Ideas Into Stories
  • The Elements of Story
  • What Makes a Great Story
  • Page Turns and Pacing
  • A Process for Revising Your Story 

THIS COURSE IS PERFECT FOR

  • Beginner writers who need story ideas.
  • Intermediate writers who are struggling with the messy middle.
  • Visual creators balancing words and images

Writing
Picture Book Manuscripts

SIGNATURE COURSE

with Jim averbeck

Courses are only available with a Makers Membership.

Get That Idea Out of Your Head and Write Your Manuscript!

ABOUT THIS COURSE

Learn how to make better word choices and fine-tune the readability of your picture books. Jim will teach you how you can build a story with setups and pay-offs and how to make a story emotionally satisfying.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

  • Write a Great Story in Manuscript Form
  • How to Edit Your Own Manuscripts
  • Leave Room for the Illustrator, While Still Creating a Great Story
  • Build a Story with Setups and Pay-offs
  • How to Make a Story Emotionally Satisfying

THIS COURSE IS PERFECT FOR

  • Beginner writers in need of an idea.
  • Intermediate writers perfecting the art of revision.
  • All levels looking to create more space for illustrations.
  • Illustrators who are interested in crafting their own stories.