2 min read

The Kids are All Write(rs)

Stories surround us. Ball games, politics, family outings, raucous parties, the cup of coffee you had this morning, all become part of our collective history the moment they happen. Even the weather–an impersonal, non-narrative, natural occurrence–we make into a story: “It was cloudy this morning, but isn’t it lovely out now?” Storytelling is what we do. It’s how we communicate. 

We master this skill not in English class, but on the bus to school. 

If you’re a kid, the coin of the realm is a well-told story. A tale of a friend who got in huge trouble in math class, the reason you can’t go to school today (“I’m dying, Mom!”), the big game last weekend where you scored three times–these are the natural, effortless expressions of our childhood compulsion to tell stories. Kids use stories in truly remarkable ways. Honestly, sometimes I shudder thinking about how crafty I could be.

I remember one day after school when I was around ten, my parents called me and my sister into the living room and told us that we were going to start doing chores. Now, the transition from “No Chores” to “Chores” in a child’s life is earth-shattering. Come again? You mean, I actually have to work? There must be some confusion here: I’m Joe, the kid who gets to hang around and do pretty much whatever. Have we met? Needless to say, that aggression could not stand. To ease the transition, I reasoned with my sister that if she did all the work and I told her stories she loved, well, then, that would be fair, wouldn’t it? She seemed to think so. So for the next couple weeks, I would sit propped up on the counter and regale her with any story I could think up, knowing that if it wasn’t good enough, she’d make a big stink and I’d be wearing those rubber gloves in a second.

You see, we all come to storytelling in different ways.

After two weeks, my parents found out what I had done and I got three weeks of dishwashing duty, plus trash and table-clearing. But that’s not the point: the point is that kids use stories to their advantage in nearly every aspect of their lives.

The same misdirects we used to throw our parents off our scent are the same that our villain can use in distracting the hero. Those same principles we used to keep our friend’s attention sitting five rows behind us–keeping the energy up, accentuating the right details, knowing the set-up, punch line, and purpose of the story–also apply to the written word. Kids often forget this, being bogged down in the mire of grammar lessons, spelling errors, or structure. But they know what gets laughs, they know what moments to hit, they know the flavor of a great story.

It’s all already there. 

We just need to learn how to harness it.


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