Week of August 21—Strategies for Finding Ideas for Writing
Tuesday—Using Unexpected Connections to Generate Ideas
Chickens in a talent show who have to deal with their biggest foes—a bunch of smart-mouthed ducks. A boy who helps his best friend (an old woman) overcome her biggest nemesis—a fading memory. A gang of animals who help a zoo keeper during his sick day. These unexpected connections have made three great picture books: Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer and Dan Santat, Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas, and A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin Stead.
A combination of unexpected elements can create a unique story. Today I’ll show you one way to “force” unexpected combinations and produce an idea for a story. Begin by looking at the chart below.
Setting, Situation, or Problem
First day of school
Big bad wolf
Inability to do something
At the beach
4th of July
MC’s biggest rival
In the principal’s office
At the library
MC’s biggest fear
Under the ocean
Stadium or arena
NOTE: You can add to the chart (or even create your own).
Make an Unexpected Connection
To use the chart to create an unexpected connection . . .
1. Randomly choose one item from each column. For instance:
2. Squeeze the ideas you choose together to form a statement that describes the story you will write. For instance:
This is the story of Matilda the Witch who more than anything wants to play the flute in the school fall concert, but her tattling sister keeps getting Matilda in trouble, until Matilda finds the power music has over people, witches, and even tattling little sisters.
3. Write the story for your newly-found connection.
1. Don’t be afraid of strange connections. The stranger the better (and the more unique). Push the limits.
2. Not every connection will end up being a story. But every attempt to force connections will get you closer to a new, fresh, unique story.
3. Keep forcing those unexpected combinations in your writing. This is not just a one-time experience or exercise.