Some say there are only three, or six, or seven basic story plots. So when you think about the thousands of picture books that have already been published, coming up with a fresh picture book idea can feel like finding a fairy rock in a forest.
Thank goodness for Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (now Storystorm), a month-long brainstorming event when she posts daily articles designed to inspire fresh ideas. While the concept of MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS didn’t come during PiBoIdMo, it is the result of one of its inspirational posts. In 2012, Diana Murray’s post espoused the idea of mashing up two perhaps familiar concepts into one fresh new one. I thought it was so brilliant that it’s become part of my brainstorming M.O. (modus operandi).
Fast-forward to 2013 and my kids were seriously into “Despicable Me.” Not only did they love everything about the movies, but I did too—the colorful characters, their ridiculously ambitious goals, and their fun tools (freeze rays, fart guns, ha!). At the time, I couldn’t recall any picture books set in the villain world.
The idea of a kid rebelling against a strong family tradition of villainy really resonated with me—my parents also held strong (admittedly non-villainous) expectations for their children. This sense of discord was perfect for fostering that immediate sense of conflict that Diana Murray mentioned in her post.
Then with the idea of mashing up concepts, I brainstormed universal themes. One in particular leaped out at me—wanting a pet. I had fun thinking about the unique pets a villain could want—a Komodo dragon, scorpion, piranha, poison dart frog, etc. But with conflict in mind, I began to think about what kind of pet a villain would not want—specifically a villainous family at odds with their kid who, to their dismay, has a heart of gold. Hint: It goes hop, hop.
And so the story of Maximillian Villainous was born. “Maximillian Villainous” comes out August 2018 from Running Press Kids.
Thanks so much for reading!
Margaret Chiu Greanias
MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS by Margaret Chiu Greanias illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow
Running Press Kids, August 28, 2018