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Blog How To Take An Idea & Turn It Into A Story With A.F. Harrold

How To Take An Idea & Turn It Into A Story With A.F. Harrold

By A.F. Harrold | Author, Guest Blog, Writing Tips, Carnegie Medals

How To Take An Idea & Turn It Into A Story With A.F. Harrold

Sometimes I have an idea that is just a picture-in-my-mind (they usually happen while I’m in the bath, thinking about other things), and from this I have, on a few occasions, been able to grow a book.

Let me tell you how it happened for the new book, The Worlds We Leave Behind, by me and illustrator Levi Pinfold.

            I had a vague thought I wanted to write a story about a boy called Hector (or Hex, for short) who had appeared in the background of our previous book, and a picture came into my mind (while I was in the bath) of something that could happen to him. It was good and exciting thing, a striking moment – like a scene you might see in a film trailer. (I won’t tell you exactly what it was, but it’s right slap in the middle of the finished book.)

            My job then, as the author, now that I’d had the idea, was to work out two things.

            Firstly, how does Hector get to that point in the story?

            And secondly, what happens next?

            And by answering those two ‘simple’ questions, I made a book and found out what the story was at the same time. (I find things out by writing, and surprises always pop up, and the story changes and grows. I don’t always know what it’s about until afterwards, but having a ‘moment’ in the middle I’m aiming for is dead helpful.)

            And this is something you can do yourself, for fun, if you fancy doing some writing, but aren’t feeling full of ideas. Because the world is already full of pictures waiting for stories.

            For example, if you open up an illustrated book you’ve not already read (maybe even The Worlds We Leave Behind!), and flick through to somewhere near the middle and find a picture (one with people in is best, the more dramatic the better), then you can look at it. And think.

            You can give the characters names. You can look at how they’re placed, think about how they relate to one another. What’s happening? You can ask yourself, ‘What were they doing before this?’, ‘How did they get here?’, ‘What has made this or that one angry or happy or scared or confused?’, ‘What does this one want from the other one?’.

            And then you can write the words, ‘Anna sat down for her breakfast that morning and her mum said…’ and see if you can get Anna (or Tom or Mr Bumblesnook, etc.), by the end of her day perhaps, to the picture you began with, and then carry her or his or their story all the way on to an ending, way out beyond that starting image.

            You get to write backwards and forwards, answering the two most important questions in life: How did we get here? and Where are we going? And by doing so, you’ll find you’ve made a story.

            Of course then, you get to read the book and discover a different story that grew out from that picture, and you might compare your story with your friend’s story that grew from it too, and you’ll find that the world is full of stories, and that one seed can grow in many different directions, can become many different things, and, guess what, this is a lesson not just about writing, but about life in general – you can become anything, you and all your friends in your class, starting from the same soil, will become so many different people, amazing and multifarious and unexpected…

            Good luck to you all, whatever you make and whatever you become!

You can purchase a copy of 'The Worlds We Leave Behind' here!


Published: Thu 18th May 2023

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