In general, my inspiration starts with some happening. It could be an event that happens to me, or one that I observe, something told to me, a memory from long ago, or a current event in the news. It can even be something intangible, like an emotion or a reaction.
I would like to share some examples from my stock of stories. When my grandson, Brandon, was a toddler (he’s now in grad school), his favorite toy was a little white fuzzy lamb he called Lamb Baby. The two of them were inseparable and extremely adorable. What inspiration! I just had to write a story about Lamb Baby. This lamb became the character in my story, “Spunky’s Neat Trick.” The character’s name went through several changes. As he evolved into a heroic character, I chose a name to demonstrate his action and ingenuity. The story, “Spunky’s Neat Trick,” was first published in CHARACTERS Magazine and later in STORIES FOR CHILDREN ONLINE MAGAZINE. It is now up as the first story on the My Stories Page of my website: www.barbarabockman.com
We lived at Pensacola Beach at the time, so the white sands, the dolphins, and the jitney from there worked their way into the book.
When I started writing, I was tempted to write things as closely to the original event as I could remember. Keeping strictly to actuality can make a story unwieldy (leggy, like a plant reaching for sunlight) and full of unnecessary, boring facts. With practice, I now try to glean important gems from real life to put into my stories and change things that would not be a good fit. Case in point: in my first drafts of FANTASTIC FLIGHT, I used the real-life fact of Grandpa holding onto the balloon. Eventually, I realized that for a children’s story, it must be Jessica holding onto the balloon. And that’s how I finalized the story.
In the creative process, the brain picks a little bit from here and a little bit from there. If we’re lucky an integrated whole develops into the final product.
I sometimes wonder if the people around me realize that “anything they say may be . . . held for use in a story later.”