Rob Sanders of Picture This! fame, is a "writer who teaches and a teacher who writes." As such, his advice is
not just helpful but particularly clever. This little lesson in "thinking outside the box" to
get the creative juices flowing is genius and can even be a fun game for kids
if you are trying to encourage interesting writing ideas in a classroom or at home.
"Today, pull a pile of picture books off your shelf (or the shelf of a book store or library). Of course, you’ll want to reread the books. Then make a chart with three columns: Character, Setting, and Problem. Below is a quick example:
Need a talent for the talent show
Lost his cap
A singing cat
Keeps stepping in messes
Loses his favorite toy
An old duck
His routine is disturbed
Now randomly mash together one item from each column. The goal is to see if you can make a capture a new story idea from the ideas on your chart. (Note: The more books you start out with, the bigger your chart, and the more apt you are to uncover a gem.)
When you mash-up your ideas, all kinds of things can happen. For instance Duck/Forest/Lost his favorite toy. My immediate thought is: “What does a duck float in his bathtub? A rubber human?” Let your brain wander and create! Or Dog/Barnyard/Keeps stepping in messes. Oh, gross! Come on . . . be disgusting. Kids will love it. Or Two hens/Pond/Bedtime. Don’t worry if you don’t come up with an idea for each combination. Keep mashing together ideas—you’ll be surprised (and hopefully pleased) with the results. And if a story idea doesn’t surface, no worries. You’re retraining your brain to think in new and unexpected ways. The work will pay off in the end."
Thanks Rob, for allowing me to share your idea on my blog. Rob Sanders has a book coming out this Fall entitled Cowboy Christmas....be sure to watch for it. In the mean time, visit Picture This! for more writing suggestions or to take advantage of his Picture This! Picture Book Critique Service.