Wednesday, April 23, 2014

From Nonfiction to Fiction

One of the most common questions authors get asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?" Both children and adults want to know this. The list of places and ways ideas come to me is very long. Here are the two examples, that I like to share during my school visits and writing workshops, on how fiction stories were inspired from nonfiction articles.
This first idea came right from my own yard. Discovering a nest of baby bunnies in my flower garden surprised me. It was so close to our front door, sidewalk, driveway, and where we passed by every day. It made me wonder when Mama Bunny built this nest without us seeing her.
I immediately started researching baby bunnies which are called kittens. I was surprised to find out that you can touch the kittens without the mother minding your scent on her babies. I couldn't help but stroke a few of their heads but this made the kittens very nervous so I only did this once. It was fun to push back the ground cover every day and take a peek at these little creatures who are born with their eyes closed and are about the size of mice.  Many people worry that kittens are abandoned because the mother leaves the nest during the day so as  not to draw attention the nest. This mother covered her kittens with grass and her fur while she was away to protect them from predators, so after I was done taking pictures I was careful to cover them back up. I knew she would return during the night when she was less likely to be seen. I snapped shots of them over the course of about two weeks. Once their nest grew too small for them they disappeared.
The discovery of the nest prompted me to write a nonfiction article about wild bunnies which I never did anything with.  But just weeks later I had an idea for a fun picture book that I'm in the process of polishing for publication. If you come from a large family you will probably be able to relate to my story, TOO MANY BUNNIES!

The second example I show students is this picture of our green anole. We had several of these as pets so we did our research and once again I wrote a nonfiction article about green anoles. I learned that their color not only comes from blending in with their surroundings but it is also a sign that are are warm or too cold. This prompted the writing of my story, THE CASE OF THE MISSING LIZARD. It's about the day Lizzie goes to school for Pet Day. But it's not the missing lizard the teacher should be worried about. Believe me!
So, I encourage students and adults to look for ideas right in their own backyards and homes.
You don't have to travel far. But you do have to be an observer. You can start out with the facts, add some imagination, a storyline, and characters readers will care about. Top it off with a great ending and you could have yourself a remarkable story!
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