by Tammi Sauer

Most of my pbs begin with character.

Occasionally, however, I go in a different direction and start with setting.

Some of the settings I have used in my books include the following:

  • Cowboy Camp
  • Barnyard
  • Monster Academy
  • Pond
  • Prehistoric Times
  • Royal Kingdom
  • Zoo
  • Concert Tour
  • Oklahoma
  • Sea

As much as I loved setting books in these places, I know I should come up with something fresh for the next manuscript. This calls for some brainstorming. I push myself to come up with at least ten new setting possibilities.


  • Outer Space
  • Rodeo
  • Petting Zoo
  • Parade
  • School Science Fair
  • Family Reunion
  • Fish Tank
  • Library
  • Road Trip
  • County Fair

Once I have a list, I take each place into consideration. Then I ask myself the big question:

What can go wrong here?

If I come up with an answer that is irresistible, I know I am well on my way to developing that next manuscript.

Your turn:

Consider the settings I’ve already listed. Brainstorm a list of ten additional settings. Then ask yourself, “What can go wrong here?” for each one.

Extra credit:

Go to the library or bookstore and grab a stack of picture books. Jot down each book’s primary setting. Who knows? Maybe one of those settings is the perfect fit for your next manuscript.

Tammi Sauer has sold 12 picture books to a number of major publishing houses: Bloomsbury, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon & Schuster, and Sterling. One of her latest books, Mostly Monsterly, illustrated by Scott Magoon, was named a Scholastic Parent & Child Best Book of 2010 and won the 2011 Oklahoma Book Award and the 2011 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. To learn more about Tammi and her books, please visit her online at

Tammi’s next book, Me Want Pet!—illustrated by Bob Shea—hits shelves March 2012. OOGA! Leave a comment for a chance to win a first edition signed copy when it’s released!