Path to Story, Chapter 34: A Place to Start

It’s been about 9 months since I last wrote on this. So this baby is due. I didn’t plan it this way, and since most babies rarely are, let alone triplets, it seemed appropriate to chronicle the weakest part of my storytelling- beginnings.

As I’ve already said, ‘Once upon a time’, works almost all of the time to begin whatever you want. Over the years the beginning I most commonly use is a lazy version of it: ‘Once there was a _____’, then fill in the blank. I have found I am more of a short-order-cook type of storyteller. I work best before meals, during trips, and explaining things from Spiritfire to homework. Oh, and survival-type situations. But just as babies need to grow, so does my storytelling.

When I can, I look to the Bible, and of course, its beginning is the actual beginning. It may not really work to do that if you want to eat a warm meal, or when attempting to answer a quick question, etc., but it led me to a direct and easy way to find an intro: the 5 Ws. Answering or even asking who, what, when, where, and why, can give a variety of beginnings to the tales we tell.

An example of a ‘who’ beginning would be to focus on a character, like one of the prophets or like Paul the Apostle’s letters. ‘What’ could be about an important scene like a war that may shape what you want to tell. ‘When’ could be a timeline focus like the book of Genesis or Esther. ‘Where’ would focus on the location/setting. And asking ‘why’ could be for a mystery. You might not want to answer these questions right away and let them breathe for a while first like for a mystery unless you want to give misleading information. I will try to get into this later along with a chapter about something I’ve botched repeatedly- telling scary stories to my kids.

In the end, I hope your beginnings are better than mine and can get your kids’ attention faster than a jumping grasshopper. I know I need to keep mine active like with a jolt similar to accidentally touching an electric fence. This can be accomplished with different vocal dynamics.

So whether you are shouting or whispering out your newborn story, may your intros invite all who hear upon a grand adventure. And like with babies, this life can be dreadful boring without one.

Path to Story, Chapter 31: Endings

I know I haven’t specifically mentioned beginnings or plot twists, but for some reason, it seems appropriate to me to talk about endings first. For any readers who can’t handle the disorder, use the famous “Once upon a time…” phrase for your beginnings. It’s genius and can fit any direction you may want to go with the stories you tell your kids.

For plot-twists think of the opposite ends of a magnet and their reaction to another magnet. Flip whatever you are doing and go an opposite route. If your story is focused on the dragon who has been terrorizing the town as the bad guy, flip it to the mouse who lives in the dragon’s cave and is the real instigator. Of course, if you do this all the time it loses its twist effect.

Endings are an interesting thing to think about. Like when we consider taking a vacation, we are already at our favorite destination in our minds. We may not even want to think about the journey or the process it took to get there. So skip it! We are at the spot you set out for, what does it look like? Why did you come? What was the point? These kinds of questions can lead to various stories, but what do you want your kids to walk away with? Like a special Christmas present your story bought and wrapped for them, is it ‘character’, ‘integrity’, or my personal favorite, ‘discernment’?

Sometimes I occasionally give a quick false ending to get my kids’ attention or to get them to behave if they’ve started acting up. For example, I’ll wrap up a story with: “Then everybody died.” Done, quick and simple. My kids so far have responded with a unanimous, “NOOOOOOO!!” Then you are in a position to ransom the story and make your parental demands. I’m just being funny when I do this and they know it, but it works!

So endings have multiple uses depending on ‘why’ you started and ‘where’ you are going with it. I was just reminded to think about where I want to be in 5 years by a job search engine. Where do you want to be by the end of your story? I look for Jesus to be at the end of my life’s story welcoming me home.

Whatever they end up being, make your endings something worth your kids’ attention.