More Than Ten Great Sources for Storylines

Certain premises for story lines can be employed time and again. Whether your take on an existing story sounds derivative is up to you and your writing skill. Here are some fabulous resources for story lines that you’re welcome to pilfer and tinker with to your heart’s content because no one — and everyone — owns them.

To find out whether anyone owns a story — and whether you can retell it in your words without getting in trouble — use this fairly reliable test: If you can find three different sources of adaptations or retellings in the public domain, then you can fairly assume the story is up for grabs.

1

Fairy tales, fables, and folklore are good resources for stories.

Fairy tales are, of course, fanciful and imaginary stories about people, animals, things, or magical beings who have magical powers. They are always made up and are intended to amuse and entertain. They have satisfying themes, such as good triumphing over evil.

Fables are stories that have a point, a lesson, that’s supposed to help the reader live better, understand something about a specific culture, or comprehend the natural world. Fables are heavy-handed morality tales in which animals and humans are taught obvious little lessons.

Folk tales involve the traditional beliefs, practices, lessons, legends, and tales of a culture or a people passed down orally through stories. Folk tales have ways of explaining basic natural truths for each culture, such as where the world came from, why humans have power over animals, why animals act the way they do, why the seasons change, and so on.

2

Mythology and mythical heroes make great storylines.

The Greeks and Romans (and every other ancient culture) developed heroes and antiheroes that populated exciting stories of adventure, magic, and power — covering every imaginable activity, behavior, hope, and emotion that humans or immortals could conceive. These mythologies, regardless of origin, have been adopted into nearly every culture and religion in the world in some way or another, representing universal experiences.

3

Nursery rhymes let you draw on your memories of childhood as well as provide wonderful storylines.

Nursery rhymes — those little ditties from your childhood — are great sources for characters and story lines. Imagine Mary, Mary Quite Contrary as the star of her own hip-hop troupe. Or what if Little Miss Muffet wasn’t arachnophobic and instead befriended the spider? How would Jack and Jill have approached the hill if one of them were physically challenged?

4

Bible stories can provide inspiration for children's book storylines.

The Bible, both the Five Books of Moses and the New Testament, is full of exciting stories. Miracles were born in the Bible and provide great launch pads for children’s stories. And if you want to be really controversial, how about tackling evolution versus creationism?

5

Sibling issues can also provide great storylines.

Certain experiences in a child’s life are definitive. Those involving siblings can even be life altering. What better story line for a sibling in need than one that revolves around issues facing siblings, such as when a new baby comes home, or when one sibling is favored over another, or when a sibling becomes seriously ill?

6

Family changes can provide more storylines.

Most children must face changes that alter the delicate balances of the family unit in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Some issues to write about include separation or divorce, remarriage, adoption, nontraditional families, moving to a new neighborhood, abusive situations, and more.

7

Draw on your first experiences to create great storylines.

Few things are more touching than thinking about a child facing an experience for the first time. Many books out there are about the first day at school, but you may be able to write a better one. Or you can write about other firsts, such as first haircuts, first crushes, first bicycle rides, first sleepovers, first times in the principal’s office, or first trips to the dentist.

8

Common childhood fantasies make great stories.

Who hasn’t longed to live in different circumstances or wished to be a different person altogether? Children move in and out of their fantasy worlds many times during a given day. More importantly, fantasies are great starting points for interesting story lines. Consider fantasies built around astronauts, fairies, princesses, mad scientists, pirates, monsters, secret agents, wishes, and so forth.

9

Friendships and social issues can be resources for interesting storylines.

Children are thrust into social situations that become more and more integral to their well-being as they get older. Soon friends supplant parents as favorite people to spend time with. If you can come up with a ton of issues facing families, imagine a child trying to figure out all the ins and outs of being a friend or navigating middle school or dealing with mean kids.

10

Emotional and behavioral growing pains can become storylines.

Children experience new and powerful emotions all the time and don’t know how to handle them. Some children seem to just barely survive, whereas others make these experiences seem easy. But wouldn’t it be great if there were wonderful stories starring a relatable someone who has to deal with these same issues in their own lives?

Some favorites include feeling shy, being left out, losing a friend to a different clique, having a disability, experiencing fears, and dealing with mean kids.

11

Bodily functions and changes are great fodder for children's stories.

Children of all sizes and ages have to learn to deal with bodily functions and changes. In the last decade, quite a few books about bodily functions that were considered taboo in polite society have become raging bestsellers. Consider content, fictional or nonfiction, about body types and differences, disease and sickness, the uses of your five senses, or potty training.

12

History can be mined for story ideas.

History is filled with great stories about heroes and heroines, villains and do-gooders, and just plain-old folks like you and us. Consider inventors of newer medical devices, people and cultures in developing countries, talented singers and dancers, contemporary writers and poets, and more.

13

Nature, science, and technology make great storylines.

Stories with natural, scientific, or technological content are highly coveted by publishers. If they’re well-written, cover a contemporary topic, and adopt a unique approach, you have a better-than-average chance of getting published. Teachers, librarians, and parents are always looking for new and exciting material to supplement what’s taught in school — as in material that doesn’t reek of lessons to be learned or homework to be done.

   
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