by Kerri Kokias

This poster hangs above my living room couch.

It reads, “The things that made you weird as a kid—make you great today.” It was made by artist, designer, and creativity coach, James Victore, and it’s a message I think we can all apply to coming up with story ideas this month. I see it as a more specific way to think about some of the more common mantras you hear as writing advice. Such as, “Write what you know.” Or, “Write the book you wish you had as a kid.” So, if it feels helpful to you, perhaps brainstorm some ways you were weird as a kid and how you might be able to apply these to your story ideas.

I’ll start. The first thing that comes to mind is that I was painfully shy. Like, want-to-be-invisible, freak-out-if-a-teacher-called-on-me shy.

I feel like I can come up with an endless number of story ideas simply by focusing on this one personality trait and tapping into the emotions I remember having around it.

But there is another level that I think we might be able to apply this quote. First, take that thing that made you weird as a kid and look at ways it has already influenced your writing projects.

I can’t think of a single story I’ve written (yet!) that was inspired by my shyness, or prominently features shyness as a theme or dominant character trait. However, in retrospect I do wonder how much my shyness contributes to my writing style. I tend to use understated text and write illustration-driven picture books. For example, my book SNOW SISTERS! is a sparse 58 words and was written to have the illustrations portray much of the plot and character development.

I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a shy adult, but even today it’s natural for me to observe people more than I interact with them. I’m a writer who thinks visually before using words, and I am perfectly comfortable having the illustrations drive my stories. Knowing this about myself, I can also use these patterns in my writing style to inspire future ideas. For example, I can ask myself what types of stories are best told with sparse, understated text? I bet you have your own patterns in your writing that you can use to spark future ideas.

In summary, here are some questions from this post that you might want to consider:

  • How were you weird as a kid? (Feel free to think of more than one answer!)
  • How can you apply this trait, and the emotions you remember feeling around it, to new story ideas? (I know you can come up with more than one answer here.)
  • Can you recognize ways this trait may already be influencing themes or patterns in your writing?
  • In what ways can you channel these established themes/patterns to come up with new ideas?

Learn more about James Victore, his art, and his thoughts on creativity at I have no doubt he has other quotes that can be used to inspire story ideas.

Kerri Kokias credits most of her story ideas to her “fly on the wall” personality. This means she’s both a keen observer of social interactions and a nosey eavesdropper. Snow Sisters! is her first picture book. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her family. You can learn more about Kerri at or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KerriKokias.

Kerri is giving away a copy of her picture book, SNOW SISTERS!

Leave ONE COMMENT on this blog post to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!