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  • Maggie Brown

Loosen Up Your Picture Book Ideas (Warning: Things Might Get Weird)

Many hilarious picture books feature unexpected combinations. So, instead of trying to craft a perfectly-thought-out story idea, use this exercise to help your ideas fly and work together in unexpected ways.


Start by writing a list of 10 (or more) things that kids love. Bonus points if these are things you like as well. The list can include people/animals/creatures, activities, places, foods, etc. It’s okay if your list is totally random. Actually, it’s better if it is!


Here is my list:

1. Roller Coasters

2. Zombies

3. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

4. Hula Hooping

5. Sandcastles

6. Monkeys

7. Mermaids

8. Staying Up Late

9. Snowball Fights

10. Trampolines


After you’ve written your list, write each thing on a separate scrap of paper. Throw the scraps in a hat. Mix them up, then pull out three.


Next, use these three elements to write a pitch for a story idea. It might take some serious creativity to force the ideas to work together. That’s the point! Don’t think too hard about it—if the story idea seems silly or outrageous or unbelievable…well it just might be a winner.


I drew Zombies/Snowball Fights/Sandcastles. Here is what I came up with:


Zeke the zombie dreams of one thing: winter. But life at the beach with his zombie family means sunshine and sandcastles. Zeke is desperate for a wintry relocation before he sweats what’s left of his face off. His only hope is to prove to his family how awesome winter is—with the help of THE SANDIEST SNOWBALL.


It’s a stretch but it’s definitely fun!


I hope this exercise brings some fun to your creative process as well. Happy writing!