by Karma Wilson

When I do author visits the kids often ask how I come up with story ideas. I always tell them about the magic question.

“What if?”

It’s often the foundation of a story.

I asked myself just that when I wrote my first published book, BEAR SNORES ON. What if a bear were asleep in a cave? What could happen? Maybe some other animals could sneak in with him to get out of the cold. What if they threw a party while he was asleep? How would he wake up? As I kept asking questions a story was born!

Really, writing a story is just like pretending when you are a kid. Remember walking down the sidewalk or a dusty road with a group of childhood friends and saying things like, “What if we were stranded on a tropical island?” Do you remember the excitement such questions generated? A barrage of answers would volley back, “We could build a fort and eat coconuts!” “Our clothes would disinigrate then we would have to wear leaves! Or maybe be naked (gasp! giggle! gross!).” And on and on the answers would come, slowly creating a fantasy world, piling on juicy and funny details until the world was complete, and then—only then—could you step into the imaginary land and start to pretend you were there. Here are some more “what if” examples from my books:

What if a frog were sitting on a log eating innocent bugs? What if the log were really an alligator? — A FROG IN THE BOG

What if a hippo loved to dance, but was so loud and big that it bothered all her jungle friends? —HILDA MUST BE DANCING

What if a penguin were lost and alone, and asked all the other arctic animals where home was? —WHERE IS HOME, LITTLE PIP?

So, what if an author were to pretend she were a child again and ask “What if?” She just might answer that question with an amazing story that children of all ages can relate to. So often the very best and most fun parts of writing are in the fundamentals.

Happy writing!

P.S. Be sure to enter my Facebook contest here to win signed books:

Karma Wilson writes humorous, rhythmic picture books for the very young and books that share her faith in a fun, understandable way with the youngest readers. Karma is also pursuing her love of outrageously silly but sometimes philosophic poetry for older children (i.e. Shel Silverstein).

Karma lives with her handsome husband Scott, and her three not-so-young-anymore children, two dogs, one cat and four horses on a small ranch in Montana. Her hobbies include reading (of course), photography, baking, and training Mixed Martial Arts (a combination of boxing, jiu jitsu, muay thai, and wrestling) with her family.