Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bedtime Stories

My kids have requested a lot of bedtime stories lately. Books are still fun, but they'd rather have us make up a story on the fly.


My husband tells the best stories. He has great characters with funny voices and silly names. They go on exciting adventures. He always has the kids giggling by the end (which actually isn't all that helpful just before bed, but it's pretty cute).

My bedtime stories aren't so good. They're pretty much all about dragons and princesses and a quest where they have to get three things. Not very original. And not very fun. When the kids get to choose the storyteller it's no surprise that they always want daddy. Mom's stories are lame.

So how, when I can't even tell a decent bedtime story, do I manage to write books?

I'm pretty sure it's because my creative process takes time. I need to work out the basics. I have to decide where the scene will take place, what the characters are going to say to each other, where the bad guys come in, and how the problems I create will be solved later on. I always say I'm not a plotter, but I think plot more than I admit. I don't outline a whole book before I write, but I can't just make stuff up while I'm typing either.

This might be why I can't do 10,000 word days. I run out of stuff I've thought through after a couple thousand words and I can't go on until I get an hour to do dishes or vaccuum so I can think out the next scene.

Are you a good on-demand storyteller? Can you sit down at the computer and create, regardless of whether you've worked out a scene before? Or do you have to have things planned out before you write?

21 comments:

Wen Baragrey said...

On demand storytelling is my favorite sort :) I love telling stories at parties, except for family ones, for some reason -- I go mute there. I'll never know why! But at BBQs with friends, I usually manage to get a standup routine going -- even though I never intend to.

I usually try and plan my novels roughly, so I know basically what will happen in the beginning, middle and end, but that usually changes anyway. I at least try to make sure all the elements come together in the proper place for the three act structure. Try, being the operative word.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

This is so like me, Natalie. I'm horrible at stories on demand. Thankfully, my boys prefer a round robin type of storytelling. Our stories always end up including at least one beaver and usually a companion named Stinky Bread.

Faith E. Hough said...

I definitely know how you feel! My "Out loud" stories don't even compare to my three-year-olds in terms of creativity (less plagiarism in mine, though!), though I have noticed that since I started actively writing (every day), my language and wording has vastly improved. I'm proud that at least I no longer say, "And then, they...um...and then they...well..." at the beginning of every new sentence. :)

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Very interesting topic! I'd have to say, I can do this - only because I used to do this when the girls were younger, and the stories were semi-true so I didn't have to be that creative. Sounds like your kids are lucky!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Luckily, nobody is demanding stories from me at the moment! ;) I think I'm better at slow speed like you.

Jemi Fraser said...

I used to do this when the kids were young (a long time ago!!) - don't know if the stories were much good though! :)

Diane said...

Dad's are supposed to be the goofy ones, right? Us moms need to plan things out a little more. :O)

Adam Heine said...

"I run out of stuff I've thought through after a couple thousand words and I can't go on until...I can think out the next scene."

Yes. This. All this time I thought I was just easily stuck/distracted :-)

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Lovely post Natalie and an intriguing topic. I am a pretty decent "on demand storyteller" for my three kids, but I have to admit that this does not carry over into my writing all of the time. Most of the time I need a pretty clear idea of what needs to be achieved before I write a section - doesn't have to be the entire book plotted out, but at least the chapter:)

Sarah Forgrave said...

It's so funny you say this because I feel the same way when my son asks for a bedtime story. My mind goes blank. But my husband always has fun adventures in store. So glad I'm not the only one! :)

Joanne Fritz said...

Who could possibly write 10,000 words a day??? I'm lucky to get in a couple hundred.

And I've never been able to come up with stories on demand. Your plight sounds so familiar to me. When my kids were small and wanted made-up stories instead of books, Daddy's stories were fun. They usually involved animals. Mine tended to be lame, except for this one I told over and over about the biggest pizza in the world. Wish I'd written it down.

L.T. Elliot said...

My dudes are still at the point where they like the dragons and 3 quests thing so I'm safe for a little bit longer.

I prefer to have some time to spin a yarn but I can kinda wing it. Like a lame bird. ;)

paulsifer42 said...

I tend to have end goals in mind that come to me as I lay in bed at night, but the actual getting there is pretty spontaneous. I'm still not super good at on the spot storytelling though.

Terri Tiffany said...

Hey Natalie! How ever do you even find time to write?
I was an awesome story teller when my daughter was growing up (bragging-- I know:)) but when it comes time to write something, my brain freezes and I wonder where all my ideas are. I think I worry too much about it.

Sara B. Larson said...

That's neat that your hubby can do that so well! I am kind of hit or miss. I can do it, but sometimes I do better than others. ;)

Sarah Skilton said...

Such a cute story about your husband and kids. I definitely need to have the basics of a scene in mind before I sit down to write it. Not that there isn't room for surprises or new brainstorms as I go, but I like having a general plan :)

Keisha Martin said...

Ideas come to me when I least expect it, for example today at work I was about to take my students to the bus and a, scary idea came in my thoughts.

I was freaked out because I don't want this for my main character but the idea will make the momentum of my plot better so I must write it.

Happy writing Natalie you will get there=o)

Plamena Schmidt said...

When I started writing, I thought I would be a pantser, but I'm a pretty detailed plotter. I just feel too nervous, like I'm wasting my time, if I don't know that everything will work out in the end, and how it will work out.

Sara said...

I don't make up stories, but our whole family definitely makes up songs! This morning it was "whose underwear is green?" :) Luckily, rhyming with "green" is easier than rhyming with "underwear." :)

DL Hammons said...

So your hubby is a pantser! :)

writergal24 said...

I feel the same way! I can not storytell for my life. I think mine is because a. I need to think it over and plot like you and b. I can't write short stories. Literally. All of my ideas require at least 100 pages of words.