Eight ways to generate fun and creative ideas for a story

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Here I present a brief list of strategies and tricks to help produce amusing and inventive ideas quickly and easily. It is the same list I presented, this afternoon, to parents who attended my Creative Story workshop in Tajamar College, Madrid. The workshop was a wonderfully enjoyable experience, and the stories produced by the participants were terrific. I'll certainly be posting some of them on the website, and doubtless their approval ratings will be much higher than mine :-)

To create a story, as I said in "How to create stories for children", it is enough to have a message to communicate, a few characters, and a setting. What I didn't go into there was how to come up with that basic situation and characters; and how to make them fun and creative.

Well, below are some ideas to help ensure that a lack of imagination and creativity will no longer be a valid obstacle to producing a great story:

1.- ILLOGICAL ASSOCIATIONS

Choose two words with no clear connection between them, and let your imagination go to work trying to create one. Car-Wheel is not an illogical association, but Car-Spinach certainly is. How about a car that runs on spinach instead of petrol? A driver's struggle to get petrol stations to sell vegetables... that's our story already almost done.

2.- WHAT IF...

A variant on illogical associations is to choose a character at random, and turn that character into another object. For example, a dog that turns into a sock. No doubt, you are already imagining a boy telling his family that his sock snuffles and licks his feet. As you can see, the more illogical the associations, the more bizarre and entertaining the story.

3.- NEW WORDS FOR NEW OBJECTS

Using any word with a prefix, you can create an object that has many surprising properties. What is an "antitomato"? And a "hyperbed", or a "co-lamppost"? Trying to find meaning in an object modified by a prefix which comes with its own associations, the mind bestows entertaining and original characteristics to the resulting object. Prefixes you can use include: a, anti, dis, bi, tri, co, hyper, multi, semi, super, micro, mini, maxi, etc.

4.- IMPOSSIBLE CONTRAPTIONS

Children love machines that make strange things, even more than people who make them. For example, imagine there's a special machine for tucking children in and kissing them goodnight; and the machine breaks down throughout the world. All parents would then have to relearn how to do that themselves. Or that, one day, the hairstyle machine wakes up unusually happy, and sets to work styling the little hairs on mummy and daddy's goose-pimples.

5.- A NEW SPIN ON CLASSIC TALES

It can be a good idea to add or change elements of classic stories, whether it be characters, small details, settings, or virtually the whole story.
How about if Snow White's stepmother doesn't find the mirror? Or what if - instead of a stepmother, Snow White, an apple, and some dwarves - we use a trainer, a boy who plays football, the boy's friends, and a punctured football? Or we could change time and place. So Cinderella throws in her job as a cleaner for the metro system, and takes a dream vacation to the moon, where she looses her mobile phone.

6.- CHARACTERS SUGGESTED BY CHILDREN

Having set out one or several characters, the mind often has a hard time finding a story to fit. Try getting your child to think of a character. Your child will identify with the character it has chosen, and you can use that to teach your child via that character.
Get ready to think of something involving a frog and a centipede! After the first surprise, you end up imagining a race in which the frogs ride on wild centipedes. Another variant could be that your child is a character in the story. This makes the child very attentive, but he or she will have to be capable of dealing with the particular virtues and defects brought out during the story.

7.- MOVIES

Films are an unending source of surprising plots. Any movie or series you enjoyed as a child (ET, Heidi, Star Wars, Superman...) will provide you with ideas for telling a great story.

8.- WELL KNOWN CHARACTERS GIVEN A TWIST

Characters well known to children, like Spongebob Squarepants, Thomas the Tank Engine, or the Disney characters, can be very useful when you need to produce a creative story. Because these characters are so well known, changing something about them will make a sure impact. For example, Aladdin could live in the lamp with the Genie, and be so squashed in together that they would have to learn to share everything.