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by M.O. Yuksel

I love using writing exercises to generate story ideas. One exercise I find especially useful is trying out different points of view (POV). For example, when I started writing my new picture book RAMADAN KAREEM, about the Muslim holy month of fasting, I wrote it from the fast-breaking meal, iftar’s POV. A story from a meal’s perspective? At first, it seemed crazy. But I went with it anyway. I was trusting the process of creating and giving myself permission to play.

This exercise allowed me to put my creative hat on and think about all kinds of fun possibilities like how iftar might react to a child dreaming about their favorite foods, or how it might respond to a child being impatient waiting for iftar to arrive. After many revisions, I eventually changed the POV of the final story, but the initial kernel was sprinkled throughout the book, RAMADAN KAREEM, coming out in 2024.

I also used this POV exercise when I was stuck while working on my picture book biography, ONE WISH: Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University. I couldn’t figure out how to structure this story about this inspiring, trail blazing woman who built the world’s oldest, continually operating university in Fez, Morocco in the 9th century. I was determined to figure it out, but I was stuck and frustrated!

So, I decided to open myself up to play and try writing the story from different perspectives. I wrote the story from the university’s perspective. What? Yes, the university. I thought, what might a university hear, see, smell, taste, touch, if it could? The final version of ONE WISH isn’t written from the school’s perspective, but this exercise did help me come up with a few sensory details including this refrain:

“Fatima imagined her school—feet shuffling from class to class, scholars lecturing at every corner of the building, students debating in various dialects…She could almost touch each brick and stone.”

Writing from multiple POV also came in handy when I was drafting my picture book, IN MY MOSQUE.

I first wrote it from the community perspective—what, where, why of a place of worship. But it wasn’t very kid relatable. So, I included a second perspective, that of the child. Each spread begins with the community perspective and ends with the child’s, incorporating their feelings and senses.

Now, it’s your turn. Try writing in different POVs. You might try it on a draft you’re working on, or an idea percolating in your head, or if you don’t have an idea, maybe look at the first thing you see and write it from its POV, then write it from other POVs, and see what happens! Most importantly, put your internal editor and critic away, trust the process, and give yourself permission to play!

 


M.O. Yuksel is author of the picture books, IN MY MOSQUE, illustrated by Hatem Aly (HarperCollins 2021), and ONE WISH: Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University, illustrated by Mariam Quraishi (HarperCollins 2022). Her forthcoming books include RAMADAN KAREEM, illustrated by Hatem Aly (HarperCollins 2024), SAMI’S SPECIAL GIFT: An Eid Al-Adha Story, illustrated by Huseyin Sonmezay (Charlesbridge 2024), and PRINCE OF STARS: The Story of Ulugh Beg, illustrated by Zelma Firdauzia (HarperCollins, 2024). Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked in the education field for over twenty years as an administrator, manager, teacher, and yoga instructor. She lives in New Jersey with her three kids, two cats, and one husband. Visit her online at: MOYuksel.com.

M.O. Yuksel is giving away a copy of her book, ONE WISH: Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm 2023 participant and you have commented only once on today’s blog post. ↓

Prizes will be distributed at the conclusion of Storystorm.

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