Making Up Stories
Callie and Lucy love it when I tell them stories, both stories I'm reading and stories I make up. I have more fun making them up. I look at things around me and can usually just see a story in what's lying around. Sometimes these stories work well and other times they're just corny and dumb. Anyway, I wouldn't keep telling them if it weren't for Callie and Lucy's interest. Here are two that I made up tonight. I thought maybe I'll start writing them down in case I ever want to polish them up into better stories.
This is a story I made up after reading a Barbie story about a fashion show.
Once there was a girl who went to a charter school. At the charter school, they had a uniform policy that required everyone to stick to green, brown, or white clothes. During playground recesses, all of the girls at the school played together as friends in the school yard. But eventually the charter school didn't have enough money to keep going, and they had to close the school.
The girls transferred to a nearby public school, which didn't have a dress code. They could wear whatever they wanted. The girls started buying clothes of all varieties -- high pink boots, or plaid skirts, or outfits with cute black belts, or neck scarves. The girls were fascinated with the clothes and soon started spending all their money on clothes. They even started working part-time jobs so they could buy more clothes. They did extra chores for money to buy clothes. They sold lemonade to buy more clothes.
Eventually the girls, once friends at the charter school, started gathering in different groups based on the clothes they liked. Girls with tall boots hung out together; girls with lots of necklaces and jewelry hung out together; girls who liked plaid skirts hung out together.
Soon the girls started acting tribal. They wouldn't talk to the other groups. They were only friends with their group, whose members all wore a similar kind of clothing. The groups became enemies of each other; they wouldn't talk to each other. They were no longer friends.
One of the girls remembered the days of the charter school and how they had all been friends. She decided to do something about it. She called a giant meeting with all of the girls and boys in the school. Rather than give a big speech, she showed a slideshow of pictures when the kids were at the charter school, playing together as friends. All the kids watched the slideshow in silence, and many were crying. They realized what had happened.
After the slideshow ended, the girl who called the meeting got up and recommended that they start a uniform policy at the school. They would limit the colors to pink, blue, and white. Everyone agreed it was for the best. They all brought their clothes to the gym and had a huge sale. They also donated many clothes to orphans. With the money, each girl received an equal share, which came out to about twenty dollars.
All the girls used the money to buy clothes that met the uniform colors. They had to search all over to the county to find stores, since the nearby stores were running out of pink, blue, and white clothes. But they found what they needed.
As the kids returned to school and the playground, an interesting thing happened. The kids who were once enemies started playing together. They forgot about their previous groups and started to talk and play with each other. They were no longer in groups but rather were one big group.
After that, even though it was never an official school policy, the girls continued to keep the school uniform code with each grade. The end.
After I finished this story, Lucy said she wanted a story for her. I chuckled and didn't realize they felt the stories were so tailored to their ages and situations (undoubtedly part of the appeal of the stories). Looking around, I saw a pink stuffed cat that belonged to Lucy, so I made up this story:
The Magic Cat
There once was a little girl who loved to collect stuffed cats. Every time her parents took her to the thrift store, she bought a new stuffed cat. After one month, she had about 10 stuffed cats. Then the next month, she had 20 stuffed cats. And after six months, she had 100 stuffed cats.
One day, without knowing, she bought a magic cat. At home when she put the cat to sleep, the cat replied, Good night. Surprised, the little girl asked the cat how he could talk. The cat explained that he was a magic cat, and could bring other cats to life.
The girl begged the magic cat to bring to life another cat. The magic cat touched its paw on the shoulder of another cat, and it came to life. It was a small white kitten. The girl played with the cat all night long.
The next night, the girl asked the magic cat to bring to life another cat, and another, and another. Soon the girl had 10 real cats in her room. She kept them in the closet, hidden from her parents. She had to borrow cat food from the neighbor's cat dishes to feed them all.
One night the girl asked the magic cat to bring all the cats to life. The magic cat agreed and touched the shoulder of each of the remaining stuffed animals cats until all 100 cats were in the girl's room.
As the cats meowed and jumped around in her room, she started to realize that maybe it wasn't such a good idea. The cats started fighting with each other. The cats demanded that the girl feed them, and if she didn't, they scratched her. The cats demanded that the girl pet them, and if she stopped, they scratched her. If the girl did't do exactly as the cats asked, they scratched her.
The girl knew she must do something to get rid of the cats. She asked the magic cat to change them back into stuffed animals, but the magic cat replied that he couldn't. He could only bring stuffed cats to life.
She asked if he could bring a stuffed dog to life, but the cat replied that he couldn't. The girl thought and thought. And then she came up with a plan.
She made a string of cat food 3 blocks long, with each piece lined up next to each other in one long line. She opened the door and watched the cats eat the food, piece by piece, until they were all out of the house following the trail of food, eating it all. When all the cats were out of the house, she quickly closed the door. She shut all the screens, locked the windows, and made sure vents and basement entrances were locked.
The cats realized they had been tricked. They started meowing loudly and scratching on the outside of the house. They wouldn't go away. They meowed louder and more viciously, trying to get back in. The girl knew she must do something.
She returned to the magic cat, who had remained in the house. She asked if the cat could turn big stuffed cats into real life cats as well. The magic cat thought about it a while, and said he had never tried. The little girl brought out a stuffed tiger from her toy box. The magic cat touched the tiger with its paw, and poof, the stuffed tiger became a real tiger. The girl quickly opened her window and threw a piece of meat out. The tiger jumped out the window and chased after the meat.
Finishing the meat, the tiger was still hungry. He saw the cats. He began to eat the cats, one by one. When he swallowed the 99th cat, he had a giant tummy ache, and he rolled over and lay there, too sick to move. The little girl called the zoo and told them there was a tiger in her neighborhood. They sent zookeepers out who came and captured the tiger and brought it to the zoo.
The little girl was relieved. The next night, she begged her parents to go to the thrift store again. She brought the magic cat in a bag and dropped him off as a donation, where he would soon be put on the shelf for some other girl to buy.
After I finished this story, Callie absolutely loved it, and so did Lucy. They were both real successes, as trite as the stories were. Story is the most powerful thing you can create. It keeps attention perfectly, and moves people, or at least entertains them. I should get better at telling them. Each story needs some kind of formulate to follow, such as:
- Neat idea.
- Effort to overcome trouble.
- The moment.
- The ironic wrap-up.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.