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Author, Sheryl Gwyther talks Story Making Ideas

Princess Clown cover_Sheryl Gwyther

Today I’m very  pleased to welcome my good friend, Sheryl Gwyther to Writing Classes for Kids. Sheryl is the author of many great books including Secrets of Eromanga and Princess Clown where she used real parts of history and situations to create her fiction.

FINDING STORY-MAKING IDEAS … it’s easier than you think

by Sheryl Gwyther 

Story ideas can pop into your head from EVERYWHERE – from almost forgotten memories, from overheard conversations, from newspaper articles, from the funny things people do, from history and even from the landscape itself. Sometimes ideas can come from the wonderful world of WORDS.

I made up a writing challenge that I call the DOUBLE TROUBLE GAME. In this game, you have to pick two nouns from a list of unlikely ‘room-mates’ or naming words that don’t go together. Like:


You get the idea? Now imagine the combination of two nouns and ask yourself What if?

  • What if there was a clown who wanted to be a princess?
  • Or better still, what if there was a princess who was different?
  • What if she loved clowning and to make people laugh?
  • What if she was the heir to the throne?
  • What if she was in trouble because the last thing she wanted to be was a royal princess?
  • What if her tricks went terribly wrong?

That is basically what I did with my chapter book, Princess Clown when I chose two words from my DOUBLE TROUBLE list – Clown/Princess and asked, What if?

Loads of other people have recognised how clever words can be when you combine them together. Famous musicians do it all the time. Here are some of the most recognised names of rock bands words that are ‘unlikely room-mates’.





COLDPLAY (well, it could be 2 words)


Want an extra challenge? Try three words from my DOUBLE TROUBLE word list! Then you’d have to call it TRIPLE TROUBLE.

PS If you’d like to use my list of nouns for the DOUBLE TROUBLE game, head on over to my kids’ only blogsite: http://sherylgwyther4kids.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/the-double-trouble-list.pdf

© Sheryl Gwyther 2011

Princess Clown is available from Blake Publishing, Australia (ISBN 9781741646481) http://www.blake.com.au/Gigglers-Blue-2-Princess-Clown-p/9781741646481.htm

Sheryl is an Australian children’s author living in Brisbane, Queensland. She likes to visit schools and libraries as well as write. For more information about her other books, short stories and plays; about how she writes; or if you’d like Sheryl to visit your school, check out:

Website: http://www.sherylgwyther.net

Writers’ blog: http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com

Perhaps Sheryl’s ideas have given you inspiration for a story of our next writing competition. Here’s where you’ll find more information:

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Letters to Leonardo Book Cover

The theme for our current writing competition is Using Fact in Fiction. What does this really mean? It means that even made up stories often include parts of real life or things that are true.

Depending on what kind of story you are writing, the amount of fact you use will vary.

You can find fact in fiction in many books including:

  1. Historical novels
  2. Novels and stories about real life
  3. Fantasy and spec novels which can be based on real places and events.
  4. Biographies/autobiographies which often have an element of fiction too because names and places are changed to protect people’s identities

When you think about the way you write, your stories are often based on your experiences of things that have really happened or people you have met.

My Young Adult novel, Letters to Leonardo is a made up story, but it’s based on something that really happened and some of the characters are based on real people I know.

I have also used Leonardo da Vinci’s real paintings to symbolise people and events in the story. The Mona Lisa for example is an enigma like Matt’s mother, but she is also a watching presence.

In his letters to Leonardo, Matt uses Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings to talk about things that are happening in his own life. It’s what connects them to each other.

 ‘…that’s what I love about your Drapery Study, I never thought of clothes as having a life of their own – but they do. We all wear an outer layer to hide who we really are.’

Hope for Hannah is a fictional story but it’s based on things that have really happened to people and real places.

The cat in my book, Harry’s Goldfield Adventure is based on my own cat, Charlie…and the lifestyle of the miners is based on how people really lived back in those days.


  1. Look at one of your favourite books
  2. Make a list of the things you think could be based on real people, places or situations
  3. You might like to try using things from this list to write a completely different story

If you’d like to enter our Using Fact in Fiction writing competition, you can find out more information about it here.

Happy writing:)



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