I was watching my new favorite comedy show — Kroll Show — last night and had a revelation about the creative process.
This episode featured a particularly hilarious installment of the sketch Wheels, Ontario, a delirious spoof on Canadian culture (and the long-running teen show Degrassi High). Things soon morphed into a Canadian version of Star Search (in which, thanks to Canadian equanimity, every contestant was a winner).
As I watched it, I thought about the writers’ meeting that gave birth to these sketches. Perhaps it went something like this:
Writer 1: Let’s make fun of goofy 90’s TV.
Writer 2: Nah, everyone’s doing that.
Writer 3: What about making fun of goofy 90’s Canadian TV?
And that was it. By adding a simple one-word twist, the writers created an entirely new niche — yet one comfortably inside the familiar confines of what audiences have come to expect.
Thinking this way can make you the proud owner of a children’s writing idea that may help you make a real mark in the publishing world. CBI Contributor Natasha Wing did this beautifully by turning “The Night Before Christmas” into a series of bestselling books that include The Night Before Kindergarten, The Night Before Preschool and the Night Before Summer Camp, to name a few.
So that’s my challenge to you. Take a familiar — even overdone — genre of children’s book and see if you can create your own niche by adding one word or phrase.
I’ll start with a few possibilities:
✔ A Young Adult Novel becomes a Young Robot Novel (all the characters are robots who deal with whatever adolescent robots have to deal with. Embarrassing rust spots that pop up on their face, perhaps?)
✔ Bedtime Stories become Wakeup Stories.
✔ Stories about vampires, witches and wizards become instantly fresh by adding the phrase “World’s Worst…” to the title. The idea of reading about the most incompetent and utterly unprepared vampires on the planet makes me laugh just thinking about it. Then try “world’s tallest/dumbest/smartest/sleepiest/funniest/crankiest/hairiest…” in your title and see what gets sparked.
✔ Tom Smith, Detective becomes Thomas Smith, Medieval Detective.
✔ Add a phrase such as “in opposite world” or “of the 4th dimension” or “backwards land” to a title. How would a werewolf behave in a world where everything was opposite? What’s 7th grade like in an alternate universe?
See how it works? Just a simple word or phrase, and you’ve invented something really interesting.
Now it’s your turn. What can you create using this technique? Use the comments section below to share your discoveries!
Tags: creativity, story ideas