A story is a mysterious creation, but it’s also a recipe: You need a hero, a world for him or her to live in (that’s the setting and the time), something to imperil that world (the plot twist), and a happy ending. Of course, it’s hard to come up with all of that when you can barely keep your eyes open. So we tapped a few children’s-book authors—Christopher Healy, the author of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
); Laurel Snyder, the author of Bigger Than a Breadbox
); and Barry Wolverton, the author of Neversink
)—to do most of the work for you. Pick a story element from each of the following sections and you have the building blocks for a rip-roaring tale.