Sunday, February 5, 2012

I Love to Tell the Story

One of my favorite parts of the day is my son’s bedtime, when I eavesdrop on the baby monitor while my husband tells my son bedtime stories. Or even better, when my son tells my husband bedtime stories. Two of my son’s favorite stories are Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. But when he tells them back to us, they come out somewhat altered from the original. In fact, my son was telling us a story on the way home from his grandparents’ house yesterday, and this is what it sounded like:

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Ryan. And there were three bears in a house and a front end loader. And then Goldilocks’ head fell off. And the three bears’ heads fell off too. So Goldilocks put them back on. With stickers. And glue. And tape. And the front end loader was broken. And the tow truck came and the front end loader was still broken, so it fixed it. And there was a Mama named Mama. And she fixed it with glue and tape. The end.

So my son is probably going to flunk reading comprehension, but boy will he ace creative writing.

He actually wakes up on a regular basis telling stories that are either imagination or conscious continuations of his dreams. They usually involve some kind of construction vehicle, such as a jackhammer-backhoe or a “dunk truck” or an excavator. And they usually also involve something being broken and requiring either a tow truck or glue (occasionally both) to fix it. His flow of events may lack logic at times, but he is a master of creating a conflict or problem to be solved and – eventually – solving it. Not necessarily in a logical, reasonable, or even physically possible way, but the problem is somehow solved. The end.

For all that the events in his stories rarely occur in a logical fashion, he does have a good mastery of narrative flow in some senses. He knows to begin with an exposition: the words, “Once upon a time,” followed by the introduction of the protagonist - usually himself; sometimes, a truck. Soon afterwards, he introduces rising action to create a conflict – perhaps the truck breaking down, or the arrival of a blue fairy, or some other random bit that adds interest to the story. The climax is notable by its sound effects, which I will not even attempt to describe in print, other to say that the words “guttural” and “phlegm” often come to mind. Finally, a bit of falling action, such as the introduction of an unrelated character like “Mama”, followed by a final denouement, and the words, “The end.” I didn’t learn that narrative process until I was in high school, so at age 2 I’d call him a good ways ahead of the game.

So maybe if that pro football career doesn’t work out, he’ll have a good shot at being a novelist. Or a journalist. Or at least he’ll be very good at telling bedtime stories to his own little boy. I’d say those are all pretty admirable career options.

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