Your own yard, park, or playground can be one of the best places to draw inspiration from! There are lots of amazing things out there to give you ideas for stories, characters, places, and creatures. All you have to do is get out there, explore a bit, and pay attention!
I always see stuff outside that inspires me to create cool new things for my stories. It might be a peculiar growth of fungus on the side of a tree that suddenly becomes an entire fungal city in some world where nature has taken over and everything is gigantic. It might be a boulder-surrounded lake with mysterious caves behind the waterfall that is inspired by the fish pond we have. Or it might be a spider kindergarten class and today is the class field trip (those are babies all over the spider’s back! Mama is carrying them around to take care of them). And as you can see, not everything has to be scary. Turn things on their head. Do the unexpected. Most people are afraid of spiders, especially when we see them up close...but what if she were just a kind, spider teacher, taking a whole bunch of little spiders out for a day in the garden?
It’s all out there waiting for you! Unplug, grab a notebook, and get out in your yard and see what you see.
I’d love to hear what you discover! Or better yet, share your story or drawing with me.
Turning Toys Into Stories
Sometimes people ask me where I get my ideas from. The answer is that I get them from paying attention to the world around me, asking questions, and always exercising my imagination. Imagination is one of the most important things for a storyteller! So I constantly create little games and exercises for my imagination. Sometimes those exercises and games turn into stories!
One of the games I like to play is to take a toy, or a picture, and create a story about who they are. I begin by asking questions about them from what I can see. So, let’s use this miniature soldier that’s posted here. What is his name? Whose army is he in? Is he a leader, or just a regular soldier? Where is he from? Is he scared? Angry? Is his armor heavy? What kind of hair does he have under that helmet?
Then I go a bit deeper, past what I can see. Where is he going? Is he fighting? Who or what is he fighting? Why? What did he do before he became a soldier? Why did he become a soldier? Does he have a family? What does he want? What’s his favorite food?
And then I start asking questions about the place he is in. What season is it? Is he in the mountains, or the forest, or a castle? Are there lots of soldiers? Is there a war? Why is there a war? Who are the leaders? Is there magic? Monsters?
And so on, and so on, asking questions, coming up with answers, and then asking more questions. Soon I have a whole story about this character and sometimes a world begins to take shape around them and sometimes...an entire story begins to develop that could just turn into a book!
So, why don’t you try it? Find a favorite toy, or a cool picture, or a piece from a family board game, or even this soldier. Create the character, give them an obstacle, or a problem, and figure out what they need to do to overcome the obstacle or beat the problem and before you know it you’ll have your own story!
If you want to share, you can email me your story at email@example.com or write me at:
P.O. Box 221
Old Fields, WV
I write a lot about monsters. I have books with zombies, aliens, Bigfoot, vampires, werewolves, swamp creatures, Frankenstein, and many more. I have more books coming out soon with even more monsters...but one thing I really like to do is create my own monsters. Have you ever created your own monsters? Monsters don’t have to be scary. You can make your own original creatures that help people, if you want. But if you want them to be scary, well....you can do that too. Either way making creatures and monsters is a whole lot of fun!
Here are some tips for you to create your own monster:
1) Where does it live? Think of the place your creature calls home. That will tell you a lot about it! Does it live underground? If it does, maybe it can see really well in the dark. Does it live in the swamp? Maybe it can swim and hop on the land. Whichever place it calls home will help you think of things it can do.
2) And while you’re thinking of where it lives, think of normal animals and critters who live there. This is sometimes a good place to start. Take something normal and make it crazy! Let’s think of our swamp monster. Toads live in swamps. What if you took a toad...and made it the size of an elephant? And gave it octopus tentacles!? And maybe some cool spikes like a porcupine?
3) What does it do? What does it want? Monsters and creatures don’t just have to run around being scary for no reason. Maybe your toad creature just eats moss and isn’t dangerous to people. And....the people who live near the swamp ride the giant toads through the swamp to get from one place to the other. In order to be friendly with them, they feed them swamp moss.
4) Give your monster a name and draw a cool picture of it!
What would you call the giant toad creature? Describe your own monster! Tell me about your cool creatures in the comments below!
If you’d like to send me a drawing of your monster, ask a parent or guardian to send it to:
P.O. Box 221
Old Fields, WV
Making maps is fun!
When I was a kid I loved exploring the woods, and fields, and creeks in my backyard. Okay, I still do. So, it doesn’t matter whether you are a kid or not, lol. And one of my favorite things to do was to make maps of the lands I explored. I’d grab a big piece of paper, or a napkin, or an old paper bag, anything I could get my hands on, and map out the cool things in my newly explored land. Often, I’d name them, giving them new life in the worlds of my imagination. That tall tree with the knots that looked like eyes became “The Wisdom Tree”. The fallen log across the creek became “The perilous bridge”. I even mapped out my house, pretending it was a spaceship and making each room something new. It was fun, it was creative, and it shaped the world into a magical place.
I still do that today! We just moved into a house with a lot of woods and we’ve built trails through it. My niece and I made a map of the trails, adding in all of the things we’d named and drawing in cool pictures. There’s “Wizard Stone” and “Reading Rock” and “The Fairy House” and “Toad Hall,” just to mention a few.
I also do this as an author. I created the original map that you see in the beginning of the Junior Monster Scouts books and my illustrator made it look even cooler (because he’s awesome). That map helped me see what the world looked like for those monsters, and villagers, and Baron Von Grump. I have a cool new series (that I’ll be announcing soon) that takes place in a small town and I’ve created a map of the entire town. It was so much fun!
So, I’d like to encourage you to create your own maps! Get a piece of paper, some markers or colored pencils, and start with your own backyard. Is the fence a towering wall that separates your kingdom from another? Is the sandbox an endless desert? Is that stump where a tall tree used to be a place where gnomes meet to swap hats every third Wednesday of the month? Do goblins live under the shed? Have fun! Be creative! Make the world YOURS.
I’d love to hear about the maps you’ve created. Comment below!