My school teachers taught me how to write stories, but the most essential step of writing for me, I learned in art class.
What My School Teachers Taught
All these are so important to know when writing stories, especially picture books.
What My Art Teacher Taught
He paced in front of the class, a stoutly fellow with a cheery smile and twinkle in his eyes. Not unlike Santa Clause without the beard. We faced him from our group tables, pencils poised and ready to record the assignment.
“Find 100 uses for an alligator.”
A pencil clattered on the table. One of my classmates had dropped it. Others just dropped their jaws.
This wasn't art! This was writing!
Secretly, I was thrilled.
We were given a week to do the assignment because the teacher was convinced we couldn’t complete it on our own.
(P.S. Remember, internet was new and Google nonexistent.)
I handed mine in the next day.
Some of the uses on my list were realistic (alligator boots, purses, and hats)
Other uses were bizarre
And some were just nonsense:
"If an alligator ate his tail... Spare Tire!"
It was the nonsense ideas that were most helpful when I started writing picture books.
They all had brainstorming skills.
The Art of Brainstorming
Brainstorming is the essential writing tool my art teacher introduced me to, that my school teachers hadn’t. I pull it out before I start writing a story, and then again whenever I’m stuck. There are several ways to brainstorm, but the main idea is to
...And Sell It!
Of course, nonsense isn't worth much all by itself. The key to successful nonsense is putting it with relatable content.
Dr. Seuss did it by giving his nonsense characters relatable stories.
Roald Dahl did it by dispersing nonsense in his relatable setting.
Louis Carroll did it by putting a relatable girl in a nonsensical world.
Recipe for Successful Nonsense
Brainstorm up some nonsense, but then make it relatable. Mix well, and when you've got just the right consistency, pour it onto paper. Set aside. Nonsense is best served to a reader cold.
“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.”
― Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Made any nonsense recently? Tell me about it in the comments!
I write about, with, for, and around kids all day. (Well, maybe I do the dishes too. Sometimes.)