I’ve known Yvonne Mes for several years now. We’ve done a blog hop together and she’s helped with Smart Dummies and supported my blog for years now. She’s also a fantastic writer and illustrator. She’s here to talk about her Story Sparkers. It’s a booklet you can use to generate your own story ideas!
Yvonne Mes’ Story Sparkers: https://www.yvonnemes.com/resources.html
I coordinate a children’s authors and illustrators writing group, Write Links, in Brisbane, Australia. At our last meeting, we used some of Rory’s Story Cubes (Voyages edition) as brain ‘activation’. The set consists of 9 cubes with a total of 54 icons. You roll the dice, start with ‘Once upon a time’ and link the icons together, weaving a story as you go.
I have a Brother Scan-n-cut which made it easy for me design and cut the die templates. However, you can also trace or photocopy a template and cut them out with scissors. I have put together a booklet with instructions and a template which you can download from my website. And if you have a Brother Scan N Cut, let me know if you’d like to receive the FCM or SVG file (fits well on 12×12 inch card).
So, I sat down, tried not to overthink it and came up with a name ‘Story Sparkers’ and the following 16 dice:
5 Story Element dice, with suggestions on:
- Story Structure
9 Character dice, of which
- 1 Character Type die
- 6 Character dice
- 2 Character Trait dice
2 Story Spark Plug dice
(full descriptors can be found in the booklet)
How to Create Your Story
Make the dice work for you, roll a couple or roll all of them. If you want some character inspiration, roll the character dice only. Or maybe you have characters but want some story inspiration, then use the story element dice instead.
Write as little or as much as you want. Write as short or as long as you want. If you like to write for older children or YA, or are looking for some edgier characters or alternative story elements, then create them yourself!
The spark plug dice give a little story motivation, by reminding you to focus on the senses and gives some ‘connecting’ words to keep the story rolling.
Roll the Character Type die to determine your type of character and then roll the corresponding
Character die (there are six of these) to determine your final character.
I would roll at least two characters, but you can choose as many as you like.
The two Character Trait dice will give your characters a positive and/or negative trait.
Then came testing time!
For this exercise, I decided to go picture book all the way!
I gave myself a max 500-word count as well as being mindful of leaving room for illustrations.
Here is my roll …
I have created this infographic to show where the dice fit.
First, I created a rough outline, it took all of 2 minutes because I didn’t allow myself to overthink it.
Rough outline 1
During a storm the action hero figure had been blown overboard and drifted up on the island. The elephant was bathing in a river when it began to rain and storm and drifted out to open waters and onto the island.
The elephant is the dreamer, which makes him easily distracted and positive and will grow as a character by learning to focus when needed.
The action figure is bossy, which makes him think he always knows best, but underneath he worries too much and needs to learn to trust/ be true to himself.
I liked the idea of them being on a journey together, a journey to find their way back, only to discover they are on an island.
I can see the action hero sitting on the elephant, bossily directing the way, with the Elephant getting distracted by his surroundings, a butterfly, a lake in the distant etc.
I wanted to start with action and introduce the two characters as succinctly as possible. It turned into a dialogue heavy free write:
Free write 1
Ooh, a butterfly!
Focus, Elephant, focus!
We have been going for days. You want to find your way back to the forest, don’t you?
And I want to get back to … to …. saving the world!
Ah, a lake. Let’s sit here a while and have a drink.
No time to stop, we must keep going. Move!
Ah, these flowers remind me of the time when …
Then I got frustrated. I didn’t like my self-imposed rules. It felt like a longer story.
I decided to change the setting. I wanted a way for the characters to get together which meant I had to ditch my never-ending journey plot.
A Zoo or some sort of wildlife park perhaps, ah, and the action hero figure can fall into the elephant’s enclosure, forgotten by a child.
Because I also illustrate as well as write, I tend to visualize a lot of the action, which does tend to get confusing for other reading it without illustrations notes. In this case, they are notes to myself, to describe what I’d like to draw to go with the story.
The result: I was happy with the cubes, I will test them further at my next writer’s meeting. If you’d like to make your own set of dice, you can download the booklet from my website. It includes a template, instructions and what to write on the dice. Here is my challenge to you. Buy some Story Cubes, use an app or online story generator and get writing. OR ask me roll the dice for you, just send me an email and I will reply with a roll of the dice. email@example.com In the end, I liked the puzzle of the story and the challenge on how to fit all the story pieces together and use words effectively. With these dice, I know there will be a story at the end of it, I just have to fit all the pieces together in the right way. And if you can’t wait to try it out, here is a roll for you to get started:
About Yvonne Mes
Yvonne Mes is an internationally published children’s book author and illustrator living in Australia. She has over twenty years’ experience as a former early childhood educator and teacher.
She has several picture books published as well as short stories in The School Magazine. Her story A Starry Christmas was animated and displayed on Brisbane City Hall for two weeks over Christmas in 2017.
Yvonne coordinates Write Links, Brisbane’s children’s writers and illustrators’ group and is vice-president of Book Links.
She is most in her element when writing, illustrating and making up and acting out stories with children during school visits and other workshops.
Contact Yvonne at firstname.lastname@example.org