Here are three of my favorite things to do to generate picture book ideas. Pick one and try it out!
1) One of the first things I do is look at problems I’m dealing with in my own life to see if I can turn them into a story. For instance, my husband and I sometimes have “disagreements” about how tidy things need to be. I am, well, a bit of a messy person. He is a neat freak. I have had this problem with neat freaks my entire life. (Why do they always think they’re right?) Anyway, I decided to turn this problem into a book titled BORIS AND BELLA. It’s about a very messy monster named Bella LeGrossi who lives next to a very tidy monster named Boris Kleanitoff. Nothing has more emotional resonance than writing about your own problems. I wrote ROCK ‘N’ ROLL MOLE after experiencing extreme stage fright. I still get stage fright every once in a while, but at least I’ve gotten a book out of it, too, and it’s a lot cheaper than therapy!
2) I love picture books. Being surrounded by them feels like home. So I’ll often read all the books on the Barnes and Noble picture book wall. Reading them leaves me feeling buzzed and ready to create my own great book. I also like to see what books moms pick out for their children and what books the kids themselves want to buy. I’ve heard some writers say they don’t read picture books because they don’t want to be influenced by other writers. I think that if you’re writing enough you won’t have that problem. Read the new books and the classics. Keep up with the genre. And if you find a book you love, buy it, take it home and type it up. You discover all sorts of things about a picture book when you do this.
3) Keep an Image Board. I have dry erase board in my office. I stick greeting cards, magazine clippings, poems and titles on it. It sits right in front of me as I write. Whenever I find a card that seems like it might have the seed of a story in it I buy it and stick it up on my Image Board. I may not think of a story for it for years, but the act of collecting inspiring images is just plain fun and it fills the well. Even if you don’t want to make your own Image Board, I encourage you to look through the greeting cards at your local drugstore and buy a few for inspiration. The illustration style is often very similar to picture book illustration style, and of course they are usually about major life changes.
If all else fails, go for a walk! Ask yourself at the beginning of the walk for a story idea and see if you get one by the end of the walk. I get ideas this way all the time!
Carolyn Crimi writes about things that make her laugh, or about things she loved when she was young. Sometimes that leads her down strange, twisted paths, since the things that she loves, like monsters and Pop Tarts, tend to be a bit odd. In addition to writing books, she also teaches adult education courses on writing for children, visits schools for Author Talks, and writes stories and articles for children’s textbooks and magazines. Her picture books include HENRY AND THE BUCCANEER BUNNIES, THE LOUDS MOVE IN (one of Tara’s favorite picture books), WHERE’S MY MUMMY? and many more. Check them all out at CarolynCrimi.com.