I haven't posted a writing exercise in quite some time, and being that I'm doing lots and lots of writing during this grand month of "National Picture Book Month", an idea struck me. During November, I am participating in PiBoIdMo over at Tara Lazar's website. Among authors and editors who are contributing posts to Tara's blog during the month, there are also illustrators. It's through those posts and others that I have formed this idea.
Yep, that's right. Doodle.
What exactly is doodling, you may ask? Perhaps you've never been bored in class? According to Wikipedia, a doodle is "an unfocused or unconscious drawing made while a person's attention is otherwise occupied. Doodles are simple drawings that can have concrete representational meaning or may just be abstract shapes."
Allow yourself or your child to just doodle away....maybe five minutes, maybe twenty. Or maybe just doodle all day amidst doing other activities. Just pick up a pencil and a nice clean sheet of paper and doodle, doodle, DOODLE. Draw a cat, a dog, a purple hippopotamus. Draw a tree, a mountain, a brown chair broken to pieces. Just doodle whatever comes to mind. And don't worry about whether it LOOKS like a cat or dog or purple hippopotamus or whatever it is that you are 'drawing'....because this doodle is just for YOU. It's not for art class, it's not for your family, it's not for anyone but you and your imagination.
Now....sit back and look.
What did you draw? Shhh! Don't tell....it's just for you, remember?
Is it a person? An animal? An object? Take some time to look it over. You may not have completed the doodle. Where is this person, animal or object? In the woods? The kitchen? Africa? No, you don't HAVE to doodle that, but hey - if the mood strikes, go for it! But think: ask yourself questions about it, or- ohhh....wait! Ask the picture!
Yes, I said, "Ask the picture". You do know that writing takes imagination, right? Not 'crazy' - just imagination.
If that picture could talk, what would it say? Ask it. "What are you doing today? How are you? Why are you laughing? Why is your leg all twisted? How did you get those spots?" I can't help you too much with those questions because I can't see what you doodled.... but go ahead, have a conversation with your doodle. It's okay, I won't tell anyone.... go ahead, I'll wait.
Okay? Now write your story. And don't hesitate to go back and ask your doodle some more questions when you get stuck. It may want you to add some more details. It may want you to doodle another scene in the story. That's okay- whatever works to create that great story.
One more thing! DON'T hesitate to STOP. Yeah, it's okay. You don't have to crank out a doodle and a great story all in the same sitting, or even two sittings. Think about it for a while. Some of the greatest stories are created not at a desk, but on walks, drives, or in the shower. Take some time to think about your characters, your setting and most of all - what's the story ABOUT? Without really thinking about those things, you'll get stuck. So it's okay to pause or even completely stop for awhile and really think things through before committing to pen and paper.