So my nine year old says to me, “I have an idea for a book.”
“Yeah? What’s it about?”
Warning: don’t try this if you’re in a hurry.
He goes on to tell me the title, The Adventures of the Chubby Koala
“That’s cute, what’s it about?” It was late, I had pages to bang out, I figured, this is an enjoyable moment – what can a chubby Koala do beyond being burdened by the constant need for eucalyptus?
The next 15 or so minutes of my life, the pictures my ears painted in my brain, were nothing short of epic. He rattled off a tale off action, adventure, heart and soul with an ensemble animal cast that was like Pirates of Caribbean meets Madagascar. He was hitting all beats in complete freestyle and I actually found myself wanting more.
He ended by insisting he wanted it “on the nice tan paper that his Rump book has, in fact that’s a good size too, not that white paper that comes out your printer, oh, and how do you make a hardcover and get all the pages to stick inside?”
I thought, ‘damn I did something right.”
Today, during his free time at school he drew the main character and as we took the dog for a walk this evening, he described the cover image in mind-roasting detail and then we launched into a discussion about structure, his teacher says a paragraph should be at least 5 sentences and how [most of the books he reads] come from the main character’s POV. He kindly pointed out that the only time you need to use quotation marks is when the main character is talking to someone else. I gave him a crash course in first person, third person etc…
Then he stole my iPad and I started him a new document on Tom Hanks’ HANX app. (A fantastic typewriter app that makes writing really fun. A half hour later he spit out page one, started halfway down the page – of course.)
Aside from some punctuation issues, again, I thought, ‘damn I did something right.”
(Remember he is 9).
So how did he go from a typical child’s love for story into a talent for story?
I don’t pretend to know the answers but I can tell you, he is reading 3 books at once, (one in school, one for homework and one before bed). This is typical and he loves story in all forms, from listening to a gang of family and friends to TV to movies to Video games – he’s a story and media junkie and frankly I’m both impressed and proud of it.
I watch how he analyzes story from every angle, regardless of medium, and you know what? It makes him a better person. He can empathize with young, old, destitute, eccentric and wealthy – because he is not forced into daily team sports and programs that force him to be with children of his age and varying maturity levels. Don’t get me wrong, he has a few activities but nothing compared to the fanatical over-stimulated parenting wishes that most of his classmates do.
The point is, if you want to know where great story comes from, surround yourself with story, story is what makes humanity – human. Embrace it and don’t deny your child of it in any shape or form and when they want to watch some song-filled animated film 25 times a day – let it go. There’s a lot more going on than mindless entertainment.