Monday, November 8, 2010

[PiBoIdMo] November 8th/Where Did They Get Their Ideas?

 So far it's been a very odd month for me. I feel like I got catapulted into November and that I landed in a Wonderland where I'm operating both ahead and behind at the same time!  I've started my Christmas shopping, taken my daughter for her picture with Santa, and even I've had our family holiday portraits taken!

This early seasonal checklist is part of gearing up for a "less is more"  holiday and new year, with a focus on less stress and more output. 

Today, I'm going to serve an important tip in writing (and life): If it doesn't serve a function in the story, get rid of it!  And that's what I'm doing, little by little each day. Using it, or losing it!

So, to that end as I "eat" my way through the towering stack of library books which need to be read and returned, I'm going make them serve as food for my blog this morning.

Whether or not you're participating in Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo, if you're having trouble coming up with ideas, just take a look at how these published authors may or may not have come up with their ideas (of course, beware of plot spoilers):

WHEN GORILLA GOES WALKING by Nikkie Grimes, Illustrated by Shane Evans
Scholastic/Orchard, 2007
Summary: In this story told in a series of rhyming poems, Gorilla the cat enjoys answering the telephone, eating soul food, and sharing mischevious adventures with her young owner.

My comments: Sounds like the author got her idea by remembering getting a new cat as a child or an adult, or perhaps watching someone with a new cat. I think the unique factor her was that the story was written in poems, and had a soul flavor.

Little Brown, 2001
Summary: A cowgirl loses her five baby bison one by one while on a walk one day, only to discover then were stolen by outlaw Snakey Jake.

My comments:  A clever twist on the five little ducklings story. The outlaw hides the bison in a flour sack which turns them white. When the cowgirl cries, the bison are revealed.

MOLE AND THE BABY BIRD by Marjorie Newman, Illustrated by Patrick Benson
Bloomsbury, 2002
Summary: Mole rescues a baby bird, cares for itand loves it until the day he realizes it is because he loves it that he must set it free.

My comments:  This very well could have been inspired by the quote "If you love something set it free. If it comes back, it's yours. If it doesn't it never was." Or, just from finding a bird that has fallen out of a nest, and wanting to keep it.

I NEED MY MONSTER by Amanda Noll, Illustrated by Howard McWilliam
Flashlight Press, 2009
Summary: When a litte boy's monster under the bed goes fishing, several replacements just will not do!

My comments: This idea was an absolutely innovative twist on a monster under the bed keeping a child from sleeping, to just the right monster being necessary for a kid to go to sleep. Well done!

THE THREE SILLY BILLIES by Margie Palatini, Illustrated by Barry Moser
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005
Summary: Three billy goats, unable to cross a bridge because they cannot pay the toll, form a car pool with the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack of beanstalk fame to get past the rude Troll.

My comments: MP went further than the rest when dealing with the Norwegian Fairy Tale of the Billy Goats Gruff and the crossing of the troll bridge by combining several fairy tales and providing a twist. It's obvious where she got the ideas for her additional characters LOL!

Illustrated by Macky Pamintuan
Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2006
Summary: Jack, a railroad switchman, frantically tries to save an ant who is heading east on a westbound track, straight into the path of an oncoming freight train.

My comments: Well, I don't have to surmise about where the idea came for this cute book, because on the jacket flap it says: Joshua Prince lives in Wesport, Connecticut, but rides a train daily to his life as an advertising writer in New York. A brief encounter with an ant at his regular station inspired this story, which is his first book.

MOOSETACHE by Margie Palatini, Illustrated by Henry Cole
Hyperion, 2007
Summary: A moose's mustache is too big to control until he meets Ms. Moose who has her own hair problem. They conquer each other's hearts and their problems.

My comments: This is dedicated "To my dear with the five-o-clock shadow" so may have been inspired by an actual person with a long mustache or a lot of facial hair.


I hope you can see from the above random selections that the authors may or may not have been inspired by people, place, events and/or books they have read in their childhood. You can look to these same things and bring them to another level, add a cultural flavor and/or twist them to come up with your next winning idea. Good luck to you!


  1. I like this approach to finding inspiration! Trying to figure out what others were inspired by when looking at the finished product! Excellent!

  2. Thanks, Megan! I'm glad you liked it. I'm hoping it shows that there is no real secret -- The big ideas are accessible. We just have to find the big ideas that haven't been done, cultivate, polish and pursue them! Have a great, productive day!

  3. Hi Lynne, this is helpful and interesting. My real question is, once you come up with an idea (because I'm constantly coming up with titles), how do you develop it and ensure there will be conflict and a satisfactory ending? It seems many good pbs have catchy endings.

  4. Hi, Holly! If you can come back to the playground for a visit, I will make that a topic this week, because I think it is a fabulous one. Thanks for bringing it up! Lynne

  5. Good question, Holly! I think a great ending echoes the beginning somehow--bringing the story full circle. I look forward to Lynne's answer.

  6. Your blog is fantastic! I'm a new follower *waves* and it's so nice to meet you!

    I loved the idea of Picture Book Month, though I'm a young adult writer and not sure I could come up with that many titles it's still nice to watch others do it!

  7. @Jen -- Thanks so much for your enthusiasm and for following! It's nice to meet you, too! While I write Picture Books, I love reading all children's literature so you will see many genres represented here.
    @Everyone -- As to translating PiBoIdMo to YaIdMo or MgIdMo, I think it can be done! Basically, we write down 1 idea per day in a summary or pitch like fashion (that's what I do LOL). If 30 book ideas is too many, you can revise the idea or pitch each day, or play "what if" to change it up. Or, work with book idea each week, and mold it each day. Just some thoughts on how to make this picture book challenge work for other writers :)

    Have a productive day!