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Are you ever stuck for story ideas?

Here are where some of my best story ideas come from:

  • Things that have really happened to me or to people I know;
  • Memories of people, events or places;
  • People I see on trains and buses;
  • Conversations I overhear;
  • Newspaper articles;
  • Other books;
  • A picture in a magazine;
  • A place I have been to;
  • A smell, sound or feeling;
  • A problem or dilemma being faced by someone I know;
  • Playing with two words that don’t quite go together eg Flower attack;
  • Using the last line of a story I have written as the first line in a new piece of writing;
  • Thinking of a secret that someone might want to keep and what would happen if it was discovered
  • Imagining getting a letter or email from someone I have never met

If I’m still stuck, I think of a character/name and match them with an action to try and get me started.

For example:

  • Ashley fell
  • Ashley twisted
  • Ashley tumbled…
  • Ashley rocketed…
  • Ashley flew…
  • Ashley leapt…
  • Ashley shook…
  • Ashley dropped…
  • Ashley shivered…
  • Ashley bobbed…
  • Ashley soared…
  • Ashley is…

Then I ask myself:

  1. Why did this action happen to Ashley?
  2. Where did this action happen?
  3. When did this action happen?
  4. How did this action happen?
  5. What happens next?

I hope these suggestions help you to come up with great ideas for stories.

Don’t forget our ‘Belonging’ writing competition.

You could win great books by Wendy Orr and Amra Pajalic

Happy writing:)

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Today I’m delighted to welcome good writerly friend and talented author, Robyn Opie Parnell to Kids’ Book Capers.

Robyn has just released her action packed new adventure, Maya and the Crystal Skill and she’s going to talk today about how she writes and give you a fun writing activity.

To Plot Map or Not to Plot Map?

Until 2011, all of my published books had word counts of less than 10,000 words. My latest novel, Maya and the Crystal Skull, is my first longer novel at approximately 40,000 words. Before I started, I knew it would be different to anything I’d previously written.

In 2007, I co-wrote my first screenplay, called Saving Christmas, with my husband Rob Parnell. I had to learn about writing screenplays, as opposed to writing my normal genre of children’s books.

As we all know, Hollywood is amazingly successful at creating movies people enjoy. I won’t say that there’s a formula to writing hit Hollywood movies but I can say that there are guidelines – like a road map or a plot map.

I decided to use Hollywood screenplay guidelines to write a novel. Why not? Why shouldn’t I try to emulate Hollywood’s success with a book?

I wrote a plot map for Maya and the Crystal Skull as if I was creating a Hollywood movie. I spent every morning for about a week working out the twists and turns of my story. I also determined the central question of my story and how the question would be answered by the end of the novel. Plus, I created development for my main character as she moved through the action.

My main character, Maya, starts off as an orphan, not literally but metaphorically. In Act Two, she becomes a wanderer and then a warrior. Finally, in Act Three, she becomes a martyr when she risks her life to save the day. Many Hollywood movies are written with the protagonist starting off as a metaphorical – or actual – orphan  (think Harry Potter), then becoming a wanderer, warrior and finally a martyr.

After a week, I had a four-page detailed plot map for Maya and the Crystal Skull. I knew every twist and turn of my story. I didn’t need to think about the obstacles, they were all there in my plot map.

I finished the first draft of Maya and the Crystal Skull in approximately 6 weeks or 45 days. I wrote approximately 1,000 words a day. I was able to do so because I had a plot map to follow. I felt as if I knew what was coming with every scene in my story.

I’m now a big fan of plot maps – Hollywood style. When it comes to writing, you need to find what works for you, and I wish you every success!


Here is an activity to help you plot a story.

1.    Below is a list alternating with ‘yes’ and ‘no’. At each ‘yes’, the main character gets what he/she wants or moves closer to getting what he/she wants. At each ‘no’, something happens to stop the main character from getting what he/she wants.

A ‘yes’ moves the story forwards towards the happy ending. The ‘no’ is an obstacle which stalls the happy ending. The final ‘yes’ is a happy ending.

Let’s say your story idea is – Kellie wants a cat. Now you can create a plot map.

Yes – Kellie wants a cat.

No – Kellie is not getting her cat. Why?

Yes –

No –

Yes –

No –

Yes –

Yes – Kellie gets a cat.

2.    In 100 words or less, write about an adventure you would have with a crystal skull.

Robyn Opie Parnell

Thanks for telling us about how you write, Robyn.

Robyn’s great new book, Maya and the Crystal Skull is one of the prizes in our current writing competition closing 31st March.

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