Doreen Cronin, author of "Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type" and "The Trouble with Chickens," discusses how she creates characters, her writing process, and how to tackle writer's block. This video is part of the NBC Learn original series "Writers Speak to Kids."
Writers Speak to Kids- Doreen Cronin
JENNA BUSH HAGER, reporting:
Where do you get your ideas?
DOREEN CRONIN: Ideas come from anywhere. Sometimes it's sounds I hear, conversations I overhear, things I see, things my kids say, just about anything. A lot of times I'll be sparked by something else that I'm reading. Anything you see, hear, use, feel, think, throw it in there. Just throw it in there and see how it comes out on a page. Don't criticize yourself in your writing. I hear kids say, 'well, I don't have any good ideas.' Well, you know, there's no such thing as a bad idea. If you want to write a story about a speck of dust, then write that down.
BUSH HAGER: What is your writing process?
CRONIN: So when I start to write it's really just brainstorming, it's things that are not-you wouldn't ordinarily connect. Click clack moo, for example, was just a sound. That's all I knew. I didn't try to sit down and say well, what does that mean? What is that supposed to mean? That doesn't make any sense. The only thing in my head was that ridiculous sound. So I wrote it down. So I always say to kids, begin with the first thing that comes into your head. If you sit down and try to come up with a title first, and then a beginning, and then a middle, and then some action for the plot, and then an end, you're not going to get anything on that piece of paper. So start with that first thing you have. Don't decide yet if it is the beginning the middle or the end. Just write it down. When all this stuff is in front of you on your page you just start moving it around. If stuff doesn't make sense then just get rid of it.
BUSH HAGER: How do you create characters?
CRONIN: I wrote a book called The Trouble with Chickens and I had a main character who was a search and rescue dog. And I thought, who is this character going to be? And I thought of my father. My father was a police officer and he had certain qualities that I think a search and rescue dog would have and he was very funny. So I start with my dad and then I turn him into a dog, and then I look around and see, well, who else can I use, because that blank canvas is very difficult to know where to start. So I try to start with concrete things - people I know, places I know, family members - and I start with them. And they'll change, but it's a great, easy place to start--and start hanging clothes on them and hanging characteristics on them to get them to come to life more.
BUSH HAGER: What do you do about writer's block?
CRONIN: Let's just say you're blank, because it happens. Look down at your shoe and start describing it - this shoe was red, the lace was broken - just to get your brain in a descriptive mode. And if you're done writing about the shoe, then give your shoe to a character. You don't have any characters? You can't come up with any? Use yourself. Write about yourself. And just – it’ll start to get your brain more comfortable. You're writing about things right in front of you so you don't have that intimidation of - I've got to create something brand new.
Who fights crime and chews chairs? Dog Man, the heroic hound in Dav (pronounced "Dave") Pilkey's new graphic novel, "Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties."
Dog Man is half pup and half police officer, said Pilkey, who came up with the brave-but-wacky character when he was in second grade.
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