My girl loves stories. Not just before bed, but any time of day, all day. As we march up the stairs for breakfast each morning she usually says “momma, will you tell me a story?”
I usually respond that I need coffee first, but she will eye me like a hawk, and as soon as I’ve got that mug in hand she will repeat the request (and repeat, and repeat), until I start spinning the morning’s yarn.
Lately, my stories have all been about carrot and sandwich. They have had some great adventures. They hitch-hiked across country to visit our friend Jacqui in Virgina, they opened a dry cleaning shop, and fought pirates for treasure on Carrot’s private island (that he bought with his riches earned through dry cleaning).
It’s a fun ritual, even if sometimes I don’t feel up for it first thing in the morning, but the thing I love the most is what I’ve learned about my girl’s sense of story. When I’m setting up the story sometimes I get to rambling. I’ll tell what carrot is wearing, or what trouble sandwich is having with his wife, or whatever, and when it’s gone on too long my girl will say in a loud voice “and then one day…”
I know she’s just bored and wants me to get on with it, but really, she is illustrating one of the core principals of story telling. You open on a world with a status quo, and then one day something upsets that status quo and viola – you’ve got a story.
Even kids get this, and yet, I feel like a lot of writers struggle with it. I’ve heard young writers talking about telling a “true” story where nothing contrived happens, or worse yet, where nothing at all happens because that’s life, man.
Bah, I say. If that’s life, then my four year old is living it better than you.