Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

Story Sparker Yvonne Mes

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 love quirky writing exercises for story inspiration. And often have what started as a bit of fun and a way to loosen up, has resulted in solid story potential.

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.

Here is a video featuring children’s author Michael Rosen talking about the Story Cubes.

Anyway, it was a bit of a last minute decision to use these cubes with my writer’s group and I had never used them before, but the group was up for it.
So we collectively rolled three of the dice and followed it up with a 10-minute writing exercise, all of us using the same icons.
Everyone came up with at least the start of a story, some of the group shared what they’d written and some decided they would like to continue the story at a later time.
What I loved about Rory’s story cubes is that they are open to interpretation and give the freedom for your mind to wander.
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Dani’s Spring into Writing Challenge was just the push I needed to create my own set of dice, something I had been contemplating for a while. And as I write for children, I wanted my dice to relate specifically to writing stories for children.

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
  • Conflict
  • Message
  • Setting
  • Objective

9 Character dice, of which

  • 1 Character Type die
  • 6 Character dice
  • 2 Character Trait dice

2 Story Spark Plug dice

  • Connectors
  • Senses

(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.

Character Dice

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?

 I guess.

 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.

Free Write 2

All day long Posie munched.

(Elephant in Zoo enclosure munching or leaves and scrubs)

All day long Alexander fought.

(Hero action figure is shown fighting imaginary battles in the hands of a child.)

But this particular day Posie munched something chewy.

(The child is with family at the zoo, and while distracted drops his action hero figure down the elephant enclosure.)

Hey, little man,’ Posie said, ‘you almost got stuck between my teeth.’

(Posie, the Elephant scoops the action hero figure out of the bush he had been entangled in.)

I am Alexander the Great! I am not a little man, put me down.’

Sorry, little man. You looked a little stuck there next to the flowers. Where did you come from?’

It was an ambush.’

Ah, that explains why you were stuck in the bush!’

My troops and I were on our way to rescue the …. (looks around sees the lion enclosure) lions, when we were attacked by … (looks around sees the monkey enclosure) deranged monkeys.’

Poor little man, monkeys can be so loud. I remember them chittering away in the trees back home.’
No time for dreaming! Get me back up there!’

There is nothing there for you, little man. Stay with us for a little while.’

But there is nothing here!’

There isn’t?’ Posy looked around the enclosure. There really wasn’t a lot here now she thought of it.

There is a whole world out there.’

There is?’

And it needs to be saved!’

And this is where I left it. I might take the story up again, let it rest and revise, or never look at it again. Though I do have a clear ending in mind with Alexander leading a parade of animals out of the zoo.

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. www.yvonnecmes@gmail.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 yvonnecmes@gmail.com

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Follow Yvonne:

Website: https://www.yvonnemes.com

Story Sparkers: https://www.yvonnemes.com/resources.html

Yvonne’s No-Nonsense Critiques:

https://www.yvonnemes.com/critiques.html

Twitter: https://twitter.com/yvonnecmes

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yvonnecmes/

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