Who is Harris Burdick
Resources - Tips on Getting Started

Some people find creating stories difficult because they believe they need to know what their story is before they can write it down. That's not necessary. Most writers start working with only a simple idea, not knowing where, exactly, it will lead them.

For instance, suppose someone sat down to write a story and wondered what it would be like if there really were wizards, and as children at boarding school together and that the most gifted among them was a boy named Harry.

Tips for Writers Orange TreeThis is a fairly simple idea, but like an acorn growing into a hundred-foot-tall oak tree, so can simple ideas become grand and amazingly complex things. How does this happen?

Well, just as the acorn needs water, sunlight and soil to become a tree, small ideas need something in order to grow into stories. They need imagination.

Very few people can look at Burdick's pictures and captions without wondering what is going on in them. The ideas that are presented (for instance, that caterpillars can spell) instantly fills viewers minds with questions: Are they really caterpillars? How can they do that? Who is the girl who is holding them? Where did she find them? What else have they spelled out for the girl? What will happen to them? Is this the end of the story Burdick wrote? Maybe it's the middle or the beginning. Is the story a happy one or a sad one?

Ask these questions, and your answers to them are the sunlight, water and soil that make the small idea grow into a story. When you look at Burdick's pictures, ask yourself as many questions as you can think of.

Who are the characters you see in the picture? Are there other characters in the story? What do you know about them? What are their names? Are they brave or timid? Clever or dull-witted? Rich or poor? Kind or cruel? Good or evil? The better you know your characters, the more real they become. As they become more real, they will bring your story to life.

How did the characters end up in the situations Burdick has drawn? What happened before the scene in the picture, what will happen next, then what will happen after that? Remember, you do not need to know where your story is going to keep on writing.

Of course, at some point all stories must end, or at least stop. This usually happens after the writer has figured out the answer to "why?" That is, why did the characters in the story have the experience that they had, and how were they changed by it. What might the young girl have learned from the caterpillars, or what did the caterpillars learn from her?

The Burdick stories I have read over the years, sent to me by readers as young as seven and as old as seventy, have followed the same pattern. The titles used are the ones created by Burdick. The caption always appears somewhere in the story, sometimes as early as the first line and sometimes as late as the last (and everywhere in between). Stories have been as short as one page and as long as twenty.

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