Imagine the Backstory – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Imagine the Backstory

Children use their imagination to come up with fun backstories to story prompts. This activity challenges children to try to think of as many different reasons as possible to explain unusual behavior.

Materials Required

  • Paper
  • Something to write with


  1. Pick a story from the list below and begin imagining a backstory.
  2. Write, record, or share your ideas. Come up with many different reasons why the character does what he or she does.

Story #1:

Tyrone, now 10 years old, had always been a quiet child. He was polite and had one or two friends at school, but mostly kept to himself during class and during recess. One day in April, something changed. He suddenly looked and acted different. He began speaking twice as loud and suddenly joined all of the group games at recess. What caused the sudden change in his personality? Think of as many possible reasons as you can.

Story #2:

One day, a zookeeper arrived at work and unlocked all of the animal cages, setting all of the animals free. Why did he do it? Think of as many possible reasons as you can.

Story #3:

A famous chef is invited to serve a dinner at the United States White House. She agrees to cook a meal only if she can be guaranteed to have a _____________ with her in the kitchen while she is cooking. What does she ask for and why does she need it? Think of as many possibilities as you can.

Additional Tips

Try these add-on activities:

  • Write an original story for others to use as prompts for the game. Invent stories where players could imagine many different explanations.
  • Pick your favorite backstory and go further. Make up a title, a cover illustration, and write one page of dialogue between the characters.
  • Turn the activity into a performing arts game. Give each group the same story starter and ask each person to invent a skit that reveals the characters’ motivations.

Links to Creativity

This activity is like an exercise for our creative muscle, the brain. It asks participants to think from a lot of different perspectives, which will help them in being able to think of a lot of different ideas. Using our imagination to understand someone else’s perspective is helpful in creating ideas we may have never thought of before. Coming up with lots of ideas and solutions is called divergent thinking, which is an important part of the creative process.

Supporting research includes: 

Grant, A. M., & Berry, J. W. (2011). The necessity of others is the mother of invention: Intrinsic and prosocial motivations, perspective taking, and creativity. Academy of Management Journal54(1), 73-96.

Runco, M. A. (1991). Divergent thinking. Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing.


This activity was contributed by the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. For more information and resources see   ©2015 Bay Area Discovery Museum.

Imagine the Backstory

Scroll to Top