November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). As I have just finished – taken as far as I can for now finished – my novel in verse, I’m looking for my next story idea. My NaNoWriMo will be a brainstorming month, playing with prompts and story ideas. Maybe by December one will show its need to grow!
Day 2 Inspiration: Borrow from the Bard. Pick your favorite story and write the prequel for one or more of the characters. Mine – hint: the flower is the love-in-idleness. The setting will be the Lake of Gulmarg. Though this is not in the play, the home country of this lake is the home country of an off-screen character whose existence launches the action of the play.
Day 3 Inspiration: Take it back – back to my middle school days. Unpack that chest in the attic of my memory. Pull out some of those strong pictures in my mind and make them stronger – story worthy. For many, we just survived middle school, but there were true-to-the-human-experience-moments that are story worthy or at least a good launch pad for some fun fiction.
Day 4 Inspiration: My iPad was bricked by an update for more than a month leaving it completely useless. I wasn’t able to access notes from SCBWI conferences to use in query letters or listen to my favorite writing playlist. Not the end of the world. But what if it was? What if a piece of technology a tween relied on suddenly malfunctioned creating a rolling snowball of world shaking events?
Day 5 Inspiration: While having coffee with a friend who teaches AP Lit/Lang and sharing about Inspiration Falls, my day one idea triggered this thought: What if your character finds herself in the story of a favorite classic? Pick your favorite classic that is appropriate for your intended audience and land your character in the middle of it! (Just double check that it is the public domain first!) Thank you, Ms. Streit! (Read between the lines: it’s good to have friends who are teachers. Teachers are awesome!)
Day 6 Inspiration: This is not what I expected to work on today, but scrolling through twitter I found a tweet and followed the link which landed me on a blog that said,
“I went through 2+ years where I didn’t read anything for pleasure, because I couldn’t find a YA book that appealed to me. I am always overjoyed, even as an older teen, when I find a lower YA book because I know it’s something I would have loved when I was 12-14.
We need lower YA and YA/MG mixes. Because without them, the world is losing so many readers in the span of a few years, just because all the books in the YA category are intimidating and seemingly for adults.”
I’ve always been intimidated to try to write for YA because it goes places I don’t want to go, but as my son is heading into teendom I wonder what books he will read because YA books are too adult for him. What book is right for this transition time? I don’t know yet. I’m honestly still intimidated to try it because I can’t be as cool as a 13 year old, but it’s also an incredible time of life that deserves love and good stories. Thanks for sharing this, Vicky. I’m listening. Don’t know if I’m the one to do anything with it. But I’m listening and I’ll marinate on it. Maybe an idea will grow!
Day 7 Inspiration is music. As many movies are based on a book, how’s about a book based on a song? Pick a favorite song and write the story that would’ve inspired the song. If I wrote adult mysteries, Two Black Cadillacs by Carrie Underwood would be the one for me! Here‘s a few other books that have already done this.
Day 8 Inspiration comes from #MSWL. This is a great place to get inspired. It’s where agents post what they hope to see in their inbox. Sometimes a great idea for a story comes from someone else, so why not from agents? #MSWL oozes with story ideas. And I found one that speaks to the twelve-year-old in me who loved a good mystery.
Day 9 Inspiration grew from a trip to the library. I passed by a book about a STEM topic that’s been sitting in the back of my mind, something I’ve been wanting to explore and learn more about. With the right group of characters it could be the inciting incident for a delicious caper. Time to find my inner nerd (won’t require much digging) and have some fun with STEM. Big idea here is inspiration is everywhere. Keep eyes open. Other big idea here: Girls love STEM!
Day 10 Inspiration: From 7 story archetypes (overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, rebirth) comes an innumerable quantity of books. How many versions of Cinderella are there? With that in mind, consider your favorite story within the genre you are wanting to write. Break it down to its bones and rebuild with a fresh look.
Day 11 Inspiration: The hero of the story picks up a coin from the street that appears badly scratched, but upon closer examination he accidentally discovers it’s amulet with magical powers that takes him to sometime else, somewhere else, possibly in an entirely different galaxy.
Day 12 Inspiration: Field trip day!!! To the antique store I go, a plethora of stories await! Found this group of rum-tum-tumblers. Got my characters, now to figure out what mischief they get into!
Day 13 Inspiration: Like many of you, I’m very saddened and frustrated by the effects of bullying on our children. But I also believe that everyone is the hero of their own story. There’s layers and layers to the story of the classroom bully, some that may be more heart wrenching than I may expect. So instead of further villainizing the bully, which I very much want to do in real life, I believe story has the power to change the world around us. So in the spirit of Rhyme Schemer (one of my favorite books ever) or the lighter side as in The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, today’s story is to make the bully the hero.
Day 14 Inspiration: By writing a story about one kid, we may discover an interesting secondary character, sidekick, or villain who needs his own story in the way that Gary Schmidt met Doug Swieteck in The Wednesday Wars and gave him a starring role in Okay for Now. Today’s writing challenge is to take an interesting character from a previous story of my own, or from one in the public domain, and let her shine in her own story.
Day 15 Inspiration: A friend in my critique group, Deb Aronson (of Alexandra the Great) recently reviewed this lovely story (here). She referred to the story as kind with a generous world view. I think we need more stories that are kind with a generous world view. There’s too much ugly in our world that slimes our children on a daily basis. Kind and generous with a touch of good humor- that is today’s goal.
Day 16 Inspiration: Thanks to the upcoming holiday season, my mailbox is bursting with catalogues. I always enjoy flipping through them, especially the ones that have t-shirts and plaques that say clever things. Today will be an arts and crafts day. Clip out the ones that stand out to you and say the motto of an interesting character, or furniture that would be in her room. Who is this person? What is her story? I’m not sure yet. But I can’t wait to find out.
Day 17 Inspiration: I seem to know a lot of people who have birthdays this month, especially smack dab in the middle of the month, so Happy Birthday all of you November babies! Birthdays are my inspiration today. Harry Potter’s 11th birthday changed the course of his life forever. At age 12, Jonas is assigned the highly honored role of Receiver of Memory at the Ceremony of Twelve in The Giver. Time to marinate. What life changing event happens at your main character’s next birthday?
Day 18 Inspiration: Stories from the travel bug. I love getting a stamp in my passport and mileage on my car from seeing sites that are homegrown. Consider a memorable trip. Flip through your pics and get lost in nostalgia. Have a glass of wine with your notebook at the ready. What story does that trip evoke?
Day 19 Inspiration: I love, love, love dogs and dog stories. These two have inspired a poem, so why not a whole story?
Day 20 Inspiration: Some days I just feel like relaxing with a cozy mystery. Especially ones that involve recipes, double especially ones that involve recipes for cookies and delicious sweets! With Thanksgiving this week, it puts me in the mood for playing with a story that involves recipes. The kitchen is the heart of the home, so how could it be at the heart of the story?
Day 21 Inspiration: Thanksgiving always means bringing out the board games! So today’s inspiration comes from one of my favorite family games. Enjoy the fun and turn it into a who-done-it rich with twists, set-ups, and red herrings. It was Colonel Mustard in the Dining Room with the Wrench. Or was it??? My brother is always Colonel Mustard and he is always guilty . . . of something!
Day 22 Inspiration: It’s very hard to to find the good with our current president. His presidency has revealed prejudice, anger, and hatred in Americans that has been in an easy to overlook low simmer that is now rising to a boil. Maybe this is a good wake up call. There have been movements and conversations and bold people saying this is not acceptable. Maybe because we have a man so full of disdain, egotism, sexism, elitism, and prejudice in the oval office it’s causing some of us to take a closer look at the hard truth of ourselves. Maybe that’s another story.
Day 23 Inspiration: Write the character you love to hate. While he-who-must-not-be-named is an exceptional villain, the one who makes me cringe and yell at the screen is
Dolores Umbridge. Oh! She angers me so much!!! Today start with the villain, all the character qualities you most despise (with one or two qualities that are redeemable – everybody needs layers), then write the perfect opposite in your hero.
Day 24 Inspiration: Two new lives are a part of my world since Thanksgiving, puppy (mine) and sweet baby boy (not mine, but close friend’s). And their presence has interrupted and altered my life and routines completely (in all the best of ways!) But sometimes someone comes into our lives that maybe we wish hadn’t. There in lies the story!
Day 25 Inspiration: For those of us whose faith is a vital part of our lives find that it dictates what we do and how we think. Sometimes we also find ourselves in situations that can compromise our convictions. I think about Angus T. Jones from Two and a Half Men who felt the hypocrisy of working on a show that was far more liberal than his beliefs. Time to go deep and write a story about a faith journey.
Day 26 Inspiration: Synchronicity. I recently read BREAKOUT by Kate Messner which features writing inspired by the Broadway phenomenon HAMILTON at the same time good friends went to go see the show (which they raved about – no surprise.) This is synchronicity. As usual, I’m late to the party. But this got my attention and I downloaded the soundtrack and am now hooked too. The language is gripping and the story was new to me. And that’s when inspiration happens. Today’s challenge is to write narrative non-fiction about old history in a new light.
Day 27 Inspiration: From my recent addiction to Hamilton. This particular song evokes such strong emotion it makes me cry every time. Not every emotion leads to tears, but strong emotion in story keeps the pages turning. Time to think about the things that have personally displayed strong emotion from elation to rejection, great love to great loss. Recreate these scenes through word pictures and see what story grows.
Day 28 Inspiration: sibling rivalry. I was talking to a friend who confessed that she and her sister had not spoken in two years. Not because there were thousands of miles between them; they were often in the same room. The great divide was caused by incredible insecurity and jealousy. Sibling rivalry has been a strong source of great literature for as long as there’s been story. From the bible, to Shakespeare, and onward to the likes of Ramona and Beezus, if there are siblings, there is rivalry. Cue next story.
Day 29 Inspiration: rags to riches. Becoming Michelle Obama is a fascinating story to me. Maybe because I’m a Chicago girl too and have taught many young girls who could grow up to be the next Michelle Obama, I find her story and message often inspiring. So much so that it’s today’s muse. Rags to riches is today’s story challenge.
Day 30 Inspiration: With the holiday season upon us, I love to read books with well-intentioned, but far from perfect angels. Watching how the spiritual world engages with the human world always leaves me wondering about what is going beyond my ability to see. The bible says we may unknowingly entertain an angel. This is the final fun challenge of NaNoWriMoMyWay. Let’s see what innocent mischief we can spool.