One Writer’s Journey

April 17, 2019

Super Heroes: Brainstorming Super Powers

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:07 am
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Last week, I saw a write-up for Quest to Be the Best, Volume 1 of the graphic novel series Quincredible by Rodney Barnes.  Quinton West only weighs 100 lbs so after he gets caught in a meteor shower it takes a bit to realize that his super power is invulnerability. After all, what 100 lb guy goes out of his way to be beaten?

This got me thinking about superheroes and their powers. What super powers would be almost useless or really hard to figure out for . . .

. . . a desert dweller?  How would she learn that she can breathe underwater?  Under what situation would this benefit her?

. . . a lumberjack?  How would he learn that by smelling a piece of wood, he knows what tree species of tree it came from and where it lives?  How would this be useful?

. . . someone who lives in the Arctic?  How would she learn she can absorb high amounts of energy without damage?

. . . a butcher?  He can hear the thoughts of animals but only prey animals?

I don’t think any of these work but I want them to be so absurd that they are funny. I’m not sure how many people remember the cartoon The Tick.  The Tick is an enormous, muscled, not particularly bright Super Hero.  At one point he ends up teaching Superhero Classes and his students have a bizarre array of nigh on useless abilities.  There’s Sarcastro who is sarcastic and dresses like Castro and Baby-Boomerangutang who wears an orang utan suit and throws baby dolls like boomerangs.

None of the ideas that I’ve brainstormed here are nearly that good.  But what if I took one of these as the beginning and just kept nudging here and there to make it more warped and funny?

I’d like to think I could make something as awesome as The Tick but it sure wouldn’t be easy.  Even the regular characters are awesome.  El Cid is a villain with the head of a sunflower who rules over the plant kingdom.  And one of The Tick’s fellow superheroes is Urchin who wears a prickly costume and lives in the sewers.

I’m not sure why, but a tag line for a character just popped into my head.  Now who on earth would go around saying that?  



July 19, 2017


Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:43 am
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Where do I get ideas? I once made the mistake of telling an interviewer that I get my ideas everywhere. The flow can be so invasive, that I’d have to put a bucket over my head to turn it off. That was one line out of a 20 minute interview. Guess which quote she used?
In January I took part in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm. The point is to come up with one idea each day of the month.  I’m not 100% certain how many ideas I had by the end of January, but I keep on adding to the list.  At this point I have 178 ideas.  That’s not too bad given that we are 181 days into the year.
Of course, I can hear the doubters among you already.  What good does 178 ideas do?  How many of them are you going to write?  At this point I’ve queried on 4 pieces of magazine nonficiton and have roughed out two picture books.  Not too shabby for just over half way through the year if you take into consideration that I’ve written 3 other books.
But where do these ideas come from?  I get a lot from my reading.  I read a number of science blogs.  New findings and new interpreations can inspire both ficiton and nonficiton.  History blogs are just as good.  Writing blogs can inspire my own blog posts.  “Hey, that’s not what I thought I post with that title would be about!”  Blogs about books work the same way.
Having a brain that’s as chatty as mine is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve never been one of those writers who wonders if I will come up with another idea. I just have to pick which one to work on next.  But I also have to manage to stick with it. If I’m not careful, the next super shiny idea can lure me away.
So now I’m off to finish a draft of the poem I started yesterday for Highlights Hello. It has gone from 3 lines to 8. Ok. Actually 7 but that’s because one line is still AWOL. That’s the one I’m going to go chase down.  But maybe I should stop and find that bucket first…

July 3, 2017

Why You Should Brainstorm aka Don’t Always Go with Idea #1

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:56 am
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I’m half way through judging entries for a flash fiction contest.  That’s 40 pieces and I’ve read 20 so far.  The funny thing?  The number of duplicates.  I’m not saying that entire stories have been duplicated but I will tell you that I’m seeing the same themes again and again. Granted this is a women’s fiction contest, so the duplicates that I’m seeing are husbands women wish were gone, child sexual abuse, negligent parents, and having to deal with aging parents.

Whether you are writing for young readers or adults, the issues are similar. Yes, we need to write about things that will click with our readers but we need to go beyond these “clickable” issues.  We need to find a way to make the things that the characters are dealing with new and fresh.

One way to do this is to brainstorm.  Go with a theme that will click with your reader but then brainstorm the details.  Go beyond the things that other people will have considered.  Note:  I don’t say the things that other people may have considered.  I say will because . . . really?  I’m seeing these same things again and again and again.  You want to give the reader something fresh.

So maybe you go ahead and write that book about the first day of school.  But maybe this is the first day of Martian Kindergarten.  Or penguin preschool.

Or you write that book about the character that doesn’t want to go to bed . . . in the morning.  Why?  Because she’s a vampire and those ridiculous birds won’t quit chirping.  Or she’s convinced that her parents go out and sun bathe without her.

Start with that theme your reader will get (step parents, school, moving, breaking up with a boyfriend) and give it a twist or twelve.  And before you settle on the perfect twist?  Brainstorm.  Because the best idea might be number 3 or number 7.  You won’t know until you have a list to choose from.




June 29, 2016

Brainstorming with Blippar

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:04 am
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coffee blippartI have to admit that I was really excited when I read Lee Wind’s post on brainstorming with the Blippar ap.  In short, you open the app and point your phone at whatever.  As soon as Blippar “recognizes” what the object is it will pull in a labeled photo which goes into a menu bar at the bottom of the screen.  Click on that menu item and you will get a grouping of words associated with this image.  See the photo with “coffee” in the center and related words around it.

This would be great if Blippar had recognized my coffee cup, but it didn’t.  It was determined to call it tea.  From tea, I was able to select “caffeine” and from “caffeine” I could select “coffee.”

Yes, yes, this might be somewhat useful because it would take me places I hadn’t considered but coffee was the best of a goofy lot.

A large framed beetle was “container.”

The skull on my bookshelf was “mask.”

My knitting was “indoors,”  but that was also what it called my Chinese dragon and the skeleton sitting in the corner of the room.

The vest I’m crocheting actually got “shawl” which was pretty darn close.  The crochet hook and a skein of yarn were unrecognizable.  So was a snowman, a horse, a book, and a cross.  I didn’t even have the nerve to try the okapi or Groot.

I love brainstorming and I really wanted this to work but maybe things that I am surrounded by simply aren’t typical enough.  If if works for you, let me know and I may give it another go.  I’m beginning to suspect that my super power has something to do with nullifying technology.



April 11, 2016

How Original Are Your Ideas?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:49 am
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Gears, Logo, Question Mark, Light Bulb, Thoughts FlashRecently I saw an interesting TED talk with organizaitonal psychologist Adam Grant.  In the video, he discussed the work habits of original thinkers.  Some of what he had to say really surprised me.

Original thinkers are not the first ones done with a project.  Grant admitted that he is one of those people who starts working on a project the second it is handed to him.  He mulls it over, the makes a list of goals and he gets it done long before it is due.  People in this group tend not to be original because they get to work very quickly.

Original thinkers are not the last ones done.  People who put off working on things too long end up rushing through things.  The don’t have the time to weight the pros and cons of various approaches.  They are late and they need to get it done now.

Original thinkers procrastinate at least a little.  Why?  Because before they get to work they are talking.  They are thinking.  They are doing a bit of research. They are gathering information, weighing pros and cons, bouncing ideas off people and playing with ideas.  They aren’t going with the obvious but they aren’t in a mad rush either.

When I thought about this, it really made sense.  When I brainstorm ideas for something, my first ideas are never my best.  They are warm up ideas, the ones that I come up with while I’m trying to get my brain moving.  If my goal is to come up with ten ideas, my last several ideas seldom contain any gems.  “Good grief.  I’ve got 7 ideas.  Five are really good.  But I can’t stop until I get three more . . . one . . . two . . . done!” At that point, I’m tossing things down just to fill out that list.  My best ideas are somewhere in the middle.

Think about this the next time you start to work on a new project.  The idea you come up with first may be adequate but you can probably do better.  Why not give it a shot?


December 3, 2015

Brainstorming: My PiBoIdMo Experience

brainstorming ideasPiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) ended on Monday.  Going with the stated goals (30 ideas in 30 days), I have achieved success.  I came up with 33 picture book ideas and 3 middle grade/ya ideas.  What can I say?  I don’t always brainstorm with a G-rating.  All in all I have:

20 fiction ideas.  Yeah, I’m surprised too.  Me — Ms. Nonficiton author has 20 fiction ideas and NO straight-up nonfiction.  Why do I say straight-up nonfiction?  Because I have . . .

4 ideas that could go either way.  As nonfiction they would have a faction feel.  One would easily work as fiction.  The others? I’m not as sure, but I really like 3 of them so will have to play with how to make them work best.

2 based on Bible stories

7 fractured fairy tales.

Out of those ideas, how many will I draft?  You probably understand that I can’t give a definite answer because some ideas seem great until you try to write them and then . . . fizzle.  That disclaimer aside there are thirteen that I definitely want to write including two zombie stories, a survival guide, a Columbus Day story that will be a cummulative tale, a stone soup type story, the fractured fairy tales and one involving food science.  Those are the ones I’m most enthusiastic about but that could change.  After all, I never intentionlly wrote down a bad idea.

There are also the seven ideas that might work.  I don’t dislike them but I’m not sure.  Sometimes if I let something like that percolate a solid idea will come together.

At the moment I’m working on Women in Sports.  I should be done with that two weeks from today. During that time I’ll blog and work on the book and not much else although I might find time to outline a picture book.  How will I choose which one to do first? None of them are more timely than the others so I’ll skim the list and see which one catches my attention.

I hope that your PiBoIdMo brainstorming yielded some results that you can turn into picture books!


October 30, 2015

Brainstorming via mem

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:14 am
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I love looking at the various mems my friends post on Facebook.  Okay, not the political ones so much but the funny ones, the historic ones, and the “what would you…” variety.  They are wonderful opportunities to brainstorm story ideas.

What magical power do you posess?  What superpower?  What supernatural ability?

Those are all great opportunities to brainstorm.  What would be the best superpower?  Personally, I have no interest in flying and superspeed which just mean that I ran into more things more quickly.  No thanks.  Mind reading? That would probably get old fast.  I’d be annoyed whenever someone lied.  Xray vision?  That would be tempting.  I am, as my grandmother called it, a nosey Parker.  I was never 100% certain what that meant beyond “nosey.”

I may not have settled on the best superpower, but look at all those potential story ideas!  That could keep me going for a while.

Historical mems are just as good.  I posted this one on Columbus Day.  The full story potential didn’t strike me until me friend Walter commented on it.  “I claim this Astin Martin in the name of Spain.”  Whoa.  What is your character really tried this?  It couldn’t possibly work unless he had found some extraordinary legal loophole.  That could be a wild story.

Then another friend posted a mem today about the women who were against suffrage.  That’s the sort of thing we sometimes forget.  Not everyone, not even all women, thought it was a great idea.  Why would a woman work against it?  I could see this one working as either nonfiction or fiction.

When you are stuck for a story idea, take a closer look at the mem’s your friends post.  Maybe one of them will spark a story idea.  And, if it does, you can tell your spouse that Facebook time now counts as research.



March 6, 2015

Idea generation

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:40 am
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What else can I do with my Ancient Maya research?

What else can I do with my Ancient Maya research?

Last week I read a great post on idea generation by my fellow Muffin blogger, Luann Schindler.  Each week Luann picks a topic such as an upcoming holiday or a seasonal happening and then brainstorms ideas based on the following list — woman’s issue, man’s issue, kid’s/teen issue, a twist, outlandish idea, and an evergreen idea.

Adapting this list slightly since I primarilly write for kids/teens, I came up with:


  • girl interest (teen)
  • boy interest (teen)
  • younger reader (early elementary)
  • twist to surprise the reader
  • something way out there
  • evergreen topic


The question for me is how can I use this to get more Mayan sales?  What?  Didn’t I just write a book on the Maya?  Yes, I did.  But I can get more bang for my research buck if I come up with more pieces about the Maya that I can sell to a variety of markets.  Using the idea generation list above, I came up with:


Girl interest (teen):

  • How to print a t-shirt with a design that looks like a huipil (woman’s blouse)
  • Working woman’s survival show, Maya style — jobs held by women

Boy interest (teen)

  • Who would win the fight, a Maya warrior or a Roman centurian?  (Got this eavesdropping on a certain group of boys.)
  • The Mayan ball game as a blood sport.

Younger reader (early elementary)

  • Mayan math.  They didn’t use base 10.
  • Craft: Pectoral (large pendant like object of jade)

Twist to surprise the reader

  • Not all Mayan sacrifices were fatal.
  • There are still Maya living in Central America today.

Something way out there

  • What Would the Maya Pin
  • Mayan Halloween Costumes
  • What would have happened if the Pilgrims had landed in the Yucatan (I wouldn’t say these are good, but I can do wacky)

Evergreen topic

  • Mayan environmentalism (green topics)
  • Mayan school (first day of school)


I’m not going to say that these are all brilliant but I hope you can see the possibilities.  The next time you finish a major project, spend some time brainstorming what else you can do on that subject.  Get the most bang for your research buck.  Check out my piece on brainstorming ideas to compliment my Maya book and increase my income tomorrow at the Muffin.


November 11, 2014

Picture Book Idea Month

piboidmo2014bannerPicture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) is well underway.  As I write this, it is actually the 9th which means that we are almost 1/3 of the way through the month.  In PiBoIdMo, participants are challenged to come up with an idea a day for 30 days.  Yes, you can come up with 2 or 3 on one day but technically that isn’t supposed to get you off the hook for the days you don’t do it.  Why?  Because the idea is to recommit yourself to being a picture book writer each and every day.

So far I have exactly 9 ideas.  I actually came up with two of them Friday night at some undetermined time between going to bed and getting up.  So, yes, I’m counting that as Friday and Saturday.

How do you brainstorm ideas?  I know that it I can find the time to do this for 15 or 20 minutes, I’ll get more and better ideas.  Why?  Because very often my first several ideas are not necessarily cliche but they aren’t terrifically original either.  If I can work at it until I come up with 10 or so ideas, numbers 3-7 or so will be the best.

Where do I get my ideas?  I read a lot of science and history blogs.  Those are always good for a host of ideas.  Pinterest is also good once I get into historic and nature photos.  I also tend to get ideas from my reading.  Most often they come about because of a fact or idea that I wish the author had explored further.  Or, I will pick a book up because of the title and then discover that it isn’t what I expected/wanted.

How do you come up with ideas?


October 7, 2014

Brainstorming: Picture Book Idea Month

Ipiboidmo2014banner love coming up with new writing ideas, probably because I’m good at it.

But I have to admit that when I’ve had several deadlines to meet or am otherwise busy, I don’t always take the time to generate ideas that I don’t immediately need.  That’t the beauty of a program like Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month.

Picture Book Idea Month takes place every November.  The goal is to take the time to generate no less than 30 different picture book ideas.  Ideally, you generate one a day for 30 days.

I have to admit that that is not the way I tend to do it.  I’ll come up with one idea here and another there.  If I’m on deadline, I may skip several days in a row.

But when I commit myself to the program, something happens.  I come up with one idea and then another.  By the time the month of November comes to an end, I generally have more ideas than the 30 minimum, in part, because once the ideas start flowing, they really come.  Instead of having one idea to jot down, I’ll have two or three.

If you write picture books, why not take part in this challenge.  Just pop on over to the Facebook page and join the group.  Yes, Tara knows that the date listed is 2011 but it won’t let her update the name and this IS the current group.  Why not sign up and watch the ideas flow onto the page?

You might also want to read Sunday’s post at the Muffin to read more about brainstorming writing ideas.

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