activities & prompts

Illustrations are an incredibly rich source of inspiration, but how do we step from looking at pictures to creating story? To help we have devised fun activities and story prompts, as well as detailed Teacher's Notes. You can think of these as a warm up for your imagination, helping you to focus on details and then investigate them as creatively as you can. Revisit the same activities and watch your answers change over time. These images are only a starting point... Where you go after that, is up to you.     


We'd love to invite you to share your unique caption to this week's image and be inspired by others.
You will be staggered by the many different ideas that are conjured by the same drawings.



Send us your caption for this illustration. Short and sweet, 180 characters, family friendly please!

(Note: captions will be posted here at our discretion. Captions can be identified with your initials, if you choose.) 


Every illustration in the Storyteller's Handbook is a collection of story fragments and characters waiting to be noticed.
Dive into the images in the search for details. Can you discover all of these things? Can you find them in more than one place? 
Then take on the next challenge of uncovering fragments of story. Where do you think these lie?
Follow this up with why  you made these decisions and you have the beginning of a story.

SEARCH FOR details

Go on the search within the pages of this book to find 70 hidden details:  

A secret door
a sideways tree
a free ride
an upside down city
an  unlikely snail



Discover these stories and more:

Someone who is afraid of the dark

Who is not what they seem?
Something about to transform
Who is beginning an adventure?
Who is almost at the end?


story prompts

Each image in this book can be used in so many ways. 

The more we ask questions about what we see, the more we will be challenged to provide answers - originating from our imaginations, interests and experience. These images are just a starting point to our own stories. Often our first instinct is a good place to begin, but here are some possible exercises to help you really connect with the scene. The more you feel like this is yours and you are in control of what happens, the more your voice will grow.

And remember to keep all of your ideas! Jot them in a journal, make a file or a story box.
These will be your ingredients when you are looking for ideas later.



Step into the picture: 

What can you hear? 
What does the wind sound like? 
Are there any bird noises or music?  
What can you smell?
Who is talking and what are they saying?
What weather is coming?
Look around - what is just beyond the edge?
What is floating overhead?


Become a character:

Can a cloud be a character?
Or a window? Or an animal?
What if all the chimney pots and the birds were talking together? 
What is their secret fear?
What do they hope for? 
Who do they miss?
What are they good at that nobody knows?
Where did they come from? What do they dream?

Storytellers Handbook_yakitori_characters


You have answered a question - what effect does that answer have? Is it good or bad, or complicated?

Try choosing the opposite to your first answer.
Reverse an attribute: strong becomes timid, silent becomes loud, scary becomes scared. 
Give your character a problem to solve, and an unlikely friend or ally.
Make them visit another illustration. 


From caption challenges to creating a play, choose from the many activities to see what will engage your group. It is inspiring and energising to share ideas and perspectives.

Explore more ideas in the Teacher's Notes



The art in The Storyteller's Handbook is full of patterns and shapes, as well as details. See where you can use these elements in your own work. You might use found objects, textures, repeated designs to create stunning artworks, ready to inspire characters and stories. Below are some ideas to try.



The illustrator Elise Hurst enjoys using very traditional methods. Her artwork in The Storyteller's Handbook  is created with hand-drawn lines using crosshatching, and finished with small touches of watercolour. Although the finished art is very complex, it is assembled gradually through the building of patterns and shapes.

Elise says:
" I love this style of drawing because a pen and paper is all I need and the lines can be so expressive. I study the shapes of the real world all the time - the trees, clouds, cat fur, waving grass and rock textures - all of these can be captured by line with a bit of experimentation until you find the right patterns. " 

Take a look at these simple techniques Elise has put together and give them a try. Everyone's hand works differently, and if you are left-handed you may find it easier to have strokes angling the opposite way. 

Can you come up with your own patterns for the things around you? How would you draw wool, hair, wood-grain, tree-bark, leaves or snow? If you find a technique that you enjoy, try to think about what scene would suit that. 

Drawing-tips 2


So many illustrations will use repeated patterns to amazing effect. Below is a template for scales, which are a simple shape that can be used in so many different ways. It all depends on how it is decorated, layered and assembled. Print, cut out the shapes and begin your own collage. What will you make? Will the shape be scales on a dragon or a fish? Or are they leaves on a branch? Perhaps they should actually be feathers on a bird or a griffin? The decisions are yours.


As a group project, the possibilities are tremendous. Imagine a dragon snaking around the room... Or a tree branch covered in decorated leaves. What about hot fire colours near the head and cool blues at the tail, or a rainbow of colours? Try using fabric scales or actual leaves on the dragon! Take paper outside and copy the patterns you find in the world around you. 

How will you finish this scene?



Are you teaching a class of adults or students, or you would simply like more detailed notes and discussion? We have created extensive Teacher's Notes which are free for everyone to download and use. Students are also welcome to participate in the online Caption Challenge. All contributions will be moderated to ensure content is appropriate for all ages. 

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