I was teaching storywriting workshops at the V&A Museum of Childhood, to children and parents over the Easter holidays – as I did the same time last year.
I teach the basics of making a picture book – using tricks to generate fresh ideas, constructing a character visually out of simple shapes, then plotting a story across the 12 spreads of the picture book format – I finish by showing how to make a book.
I use lists of “picture words” to spark ideas – mixing them up together to make character ideas, for example:
GHOSTLY HANDBAG or FIRE MERMAID or PAPER WITCH.
I make quick drawings on a flipchart, to try to help children or parents visualize their character. This was my drawing of a SLIMY GHOST:
This was a BREAD PIG:
and this is the child’s version:
Everyone has brilliant ideas, all the time – but not everyone acts on those ideas. And its very common to underestimate your strengths – and not really value your ideas.
The best advice I had at college was when a tutor said “Don’t despise what comes naturally – it doesn’t come naturally to everyone.”
It’s often hard to see what are our own best qualities.
I love the ideas that children and parents come up with in my classes. Last year one parent memorably came up with the idea of a story about an “angry pencil”. The pencil scribbles furiously, getting angrier and angrier as it gets shorter and shorter – a brilliant image of how anger works – how self-destructive and consuming it is – with a funny visual joke about ‘short-man-syndrome’ thrown in.
A child this year (a boy of about 8) wrote about a ghost who tells knock-knock jokes. I love the idea of a ghost knock-knocking at midnight, waking every one up, not to terrify them but in a sad bid to entertain – the ghost as a kind of faded, failed comedian, doomed to repeat his tired old routine for all eternity.
Both were ideas I wanted to steal.