I have it, the spark of true inspiration! And surprisingly enough it came from somewhere I'd never considered, the foreword from the Ed Hook's 'Acting For Animators', written by Brad Bird. In it Brad talks about the importance of good acting in character animation, saying how the best animators fully invest themselves in the moment just as much as the best live action actors do. The difference is that animators have to stay in the moment got weeks, often even months on end to express an emotions that takes their characters only seconds to convey onscreen, as opposed to the fleeting moments of live action counterparts. He concludes that "The art of character animation, then, is to try to catch lightning in a bottle one volt at a time."
I absolutely love this quote. Truly I can't think of a better way to put the sheer effort and investment on the part of character animators into words, it's the perfect analogy. As soon as I read it I knew for certain this what what I wanted to base my animation on: I'm a character animator, I want to catch lightning in a bottle too! Since my doing so will be in a metaphorical sense, why not make my character do it literally? It's the perfect epic childhood adventure, with just enough fantasy mixed with human interest to suspend disbelief and add the possibility for danger. After all, what inquisitive, darring child wouldn't jump at the chance to own their very own bolt of lightning? Lightning is a rarity, a source of power and mystery that's fleeting but leaves a lasting impression. Children often have a sense of inexplicable confidence and audacity, feeling like they could do almost anything they put their minds to. After all, no one's proved them wrong yet! Until they grow up and experience the limitations of life, the possibilities seem endless. I really want to capture that in my film, if I can.
As for ways my character could go about catching her lightning, the most obvious method that springs to mind is Benjamin Franklin's kite experiment; flying a kite in a lightning storm with a key tied to the end to conduct the electricity down the kite string. While extremely dangerous, this is the sort of simple method that would make sense to a child with his or her limited knowledge of physics, and it's the type of thing that's taught to children around primary school age, so it won't be implausible for my character to consider and use this method herself. A kite and key are common item that are easy for kids to obtain without parental permission or interference, so this option will make a lot more sense than trying to climb to the top of a tall building or find a lightning rod.