Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In which I discover the limits of my daughter's patience for the writing process

I'm a hair over 10,000 words into a novel, just finished Act One, and I am out of the area that I knew exactly what was going to happen, and I'm back into super vague world where I really just know the tentpoles. Still. I'm a writer, a storyteller. Which is why it drives me nuts when my daughter asks me to tell her a story and I come up dry. Last night after dinner, we were laying in her bed shining flashlights on the ceiling, and she said, "Daddy, tell me a spooky story. One about ghosts!"

And my brain locks up and I start going through all the ghost stories I know, trying to think of one that will entertain a three and a half year old without giving her nightmares. I ended up recycling a Kipper story about a ghost.

"Tell me another ghost story, but this time at Tiger's house."

More recycling, this time with Tiger discovering a hidden room in his house, where the ghost has prepared tea for them to share. Okay, not bad. Slightly original, even if all the pieces were sort of recycled. The ending sucked, but those are always hard.

"Tell me a spooky story about dragons!"

There followed a story about a dragon who lived in a cave in the tallest mountain at the top of the world who was very scared of mice, thought he heard one squeaking in his cave, but it turned out to be a kangaroo riding a bicycle, and everything was okay after they oiled the kangaroo's bike, which had been squeaking. I was pretty proud of that one, but the response was, "Daddy, tell me a spooky story about a dragon with a mouse, but this time it's really a mouse."

Okay, that one was harder to end happily for everyone. But I managed to cobble something together.

"Daddy, tell me another dragon story!"
That is not a lot to go on. I decided the best thing was to involve her in the process a bit: "Okay, so where does the dragon live? In the mountains? In a cave, or in the forest?"

"The forest!"

"And for it to be a good story, he has to want something. What does he want? Treasure? A friend? Some food?"

"Food!"

"What kind of food?"

"Broccoli, and cauliflower, and smoothies, and brownies!"

"Okay, and if it's going to be a good story, there's got to be something that keeps him from getting the food. What's keeping him from getting the food? Any ideas?"

"Daddy, just tell the story!"

Which is what it all comes down to eventually, isn't it?

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