Mommy, tell me a story?

October 4, 2007 at 10:51 pm | Posted in creativity, imagination, Meg, story, storytelling | Leave a comment

My son loves books and stories. When he was younger we’d sit in the rocking chair and I’d create fantasies of his exploits with superheroes, dinosaurs and Peter Pan. His begging and whining for more kept him up long past bedtime so I had to create a story to limit the stories.

That is how Sagabell came into our lives. Sagabell is Tinkerbell’s sister and the Fairy of the Story. In the magic tree in Neverland, she weaves elaborate tales of mischief and fun. Each night she flies to our home and if my son is fast asleep, Sagabell leaves her handiwork in our magic story jar. If she finds him awake, her tiny wings fly her home and we have no adventure to ‘read’ the next night. And since she’s so small, she can only bring three stories to us. Then it’s lights out and off to sleep as fast as can be.

Believe it or not, this worked every night. Bedtime was a joy and we both looked forward to seeing if Sagabell came. He took his stories out of the magical jar, told me who was in them and listened attentively. Of course, he often tried to convince me Sagabell had snuck in an extra small account of life on Neverland and sometimes she did. That pixie couldn’t resist his excitement and cute freckles (or fairy kisses) anymore than I could.

Unfortunately, Sagabell no longer visits us. My son has outgrown his nap and falls asleep too quickly at bedtime for a story. Believe me, I’m not complaining, but sometimes I miss those moments when we escaped into a magical world where he battled Captain Hook or when Timmy the T-Rex moved into the neighborhood.

I loved that time for many reasons, one being that it reminded me how important the story is. You can have wonderful characters gifted with the ability to fly, but without having something for them to do, they just hover in the air. The story is in the action. The verbs we use to tell what’s going on. The answer to “and then what did he do?” Or “then what happened?” And “why?” That was how Sagabell came about- the ever present why in a toddler’s vocal repertoire.

Me: You can’t have another story tonight.
Son: Why?
Me: Um, because there aren’t anymore to tell.
Son: Why?
Me: (insert pause as I scramble for a good enough answer to stop the inquisition) Because the story fairy didn’t bring anymore last night.
Son: Why?

If you’ve ever been around a toddler in this phase, you know what I’m talking about. And I’m sure you had a limit on your creativity and finished with “Because I said so!” Unfortunately, in writing, we don’t get a “Because I said so!” We have to take the story to its end, even when we have no idea what to do with flying heroes. And when you’re stuck, use a toddler to prompt you with that wonderful “why” or “and then what does she do?” (I don’t recommend a real one in case you have limited patience- pretend or ask a grownup to help you). You’ll be amazed how quickly you get to the root of the story arc when pestered. Then you’ll have something exciting for the flying hero to do, something unique and attention grabbing so the reader will want you to put another story in their jar.

-Meg

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