Storyboard: How I Come Up With Children’s Stories

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I am an image-based writer when it comes to stories for young people (middle-grade).  For “The Girl Who Flew on a Whale,” I was inspired by a photoshopped image of a girl touching a floating whale.  That story isn’t finished yet, but it will be one day.  
A lot of my stories arise from seeing something that sparks my creative juices.  But sometimes my ideas arise from scenes in novels, which compels me to steal the real-world image, manipulate it, cut it up, throw in some weirdness and fantasy, and then put it all back together again.  Such is the life of “Mr. Pine’s Woobly House (And the Mysterious Things Melinda Stone Found There).”  While reading Jean Toomer’s Cane, I was inspired by the following lines:

The railroad boss said not to say he said it, but she could live, if she wanted to, on the narrow strip of land between the railroad and the road…Six trains each day rumbled past and shook the ground under her cabin. Fords, and horse- and mule-drawn buggies went back and forth along the road.  No one ever saw her.  Trainmen, and passengers who’d heard about her, threw out papers and food.  Threw out little crumpled slips of paper scribbled with prayers, as they passed her eye-shaped piece of sandy ground.  (Pg. 8-9)

I took that scene and came up with this:

And the following crude drawings of the characters:

If you guessed that Taylor is an aardvark, then you deserve a cookie.  Because he is an aardvark.  Why?  I don’t know.  I just wanted an aardvark in this story, and a big house leaning precariously over train tracks, and a crooked-backed old man…

The only thing I will have to change is the name of the old man, since Mr. Pine is the name of a character from a series of famous children’s books by Leonard P. Kessler.

The question I have for you all is this:  Are you visually oriented?  If so, how do you use images to construct stories, whether for children or adults?

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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