Friday, September 22, 2017

Sowing Seeds of Greatness

We all long for a simple recipe for the perfect story. Unfortunately, creativity doesn’t usually work that way. Writing is a messy, exciting, mind-blowing adventure, which is exactly why we love it and why it sometimes kicks our trash. 


The seeds for a great tale can be found just about anywhere—floating on the wind like dandelion clocks, at the breakfast table sprinkled on a bagel, spinning through a movie like maple tree helicopters, or in a squishy pile in your very own backyard. 

The problem is these seeds often sprout stories far different from what we’d expect. This is one instance where the apple really might fall far from the tree. It might even roll down the hill and morph into a carriage. But that is part of the joy of writing. 

If you’re prepping for a new story, seek inspiration in real life. Take a walk. Watch a movie. Just don’t zone out. Keep your notebook handy and jot down ideas, however commonplace or strange. You never know where they’ll take you once you start writing.


Here’s a couple prompts to get those creative juices flowing.
Pick whatever color first comes to mind. Think of an emotion. Then look around the room (or alternatively, out the window), noticing the first item/person/animal you see that has your chosen color on it. 
Spend ten second visualizing that person or object. How is the emotion you considered connected to that person or object? Are they feeling that way? Did they provoke that emotion in someone else? Why? How? Now take what you’ve got and develop it into a 500-word piece answering the question—“What happens next?” 

Remember, keep it active!

Now, take this piece or another short piece you’ve written and twist it. For instance, you could change an element of the story, rewriting it with a fantasy or sci-fi overlay. 
Or add a new character who is vastly different from the others you’ve included and see how things play out. Change the POV or gender of the main characters. Choose a minor character and rewrite the scene from their perspective. 
There are tons of ways to do this. Whatever you do, you will find your story becomes something else altogether. Sometimes it will spawn several stories. You may stumble upon a compelling theme and really make it shine.

For more prompts, try


As always, write in genius mode. You know what I mean. Write in a frenzy of brilliance, not worrying too much about perfect wording or stellar spelling. Just let the story spill out in all its ugly glory. 

Once you’re done (and the story has rested for awhile, days even), go back and see what you’ve got. This is when you put on your ruthless editing hat, rip out your blood-red pen and scribble away. 

Better yet, try a strategic approach. Go through your piece with a critical eye, searching for the true story hiding within. Sometimes the skeleton of an intriguing tale is already there, waiting to be fleshed out with similes, metaphors, powerful themes, and enhancing detail. 
Sometimes the skeleton is too jumbled up to put together into anything meaningful. But in that case, there’s almost always some glimmer of inspiration there, some new seed to plant and nurture into something beautiful (or scary, whatever your preference).

The point is, the seed is just the beginning, just a way to get your creative juices flowing. Don’t feel constrained by the start of the story or even its inspiration. In the end, you are the artist. You determine where the story takes us. Unless, of course, you happen upon a really headstrong character, who has a mind of their own and takes you on an adventure you’d never dreamed could come from your own mind.

Either way, you’re writing, you’re loving it, and at the same time, sowing seeds of greatness in your readers. In any genre, this is important, but especially in middle grade fiction. 
Our readers are clamoring for entertainment and encouragement, they’re on the cusp of defining themselves and are hungry for inspiration. They need to witness characters wrestle with problems and rise above themselves. As do we all.

What are some of your recent sources of creativity?