Monday, April 4, 2011

Chomp, Chomp, Chomp.

I joined a five year old at play last week. He was surrounded by a group of animals, from plushy bears and squishy seals to plastic dinosaurs, including some ferocious looking specimens that bopped to their own roars. "Well," I said, "let's line up these nice animals and have a party. What do you think they would like to eat? Cupcakes and cookies?"

"Oh," he answered, "these dinosaurs are bad, bad, bad. They like meat. They're carnivores, and they're going to eat all these bears and seals and all the people, and everything's going to be dead. The dinosaurs are going to attack, and chomp, chomp, chomp."

And with that, the animals were scattered to the four corners of the room.

Oooh, I think. When do children start thinking about death? Is there something wrong here?

"And then," he said, "all the dead animals are going to get up again, and then they're going to get some good stuff like apples and cookies, and the dinosaurs are going to come and there will be a party."

End of story. Everyone is happy. Good narrative.

My point is that even at a very early age, children are able to create satisfying narratives. I find this extremely encouraging, as well as challenging, for it means they will demand from writers even better narratives.

It's tempting to open a story with a scene, one that will draw the reader in, but unless that strong narrative follows, our young friends will go back to creating their own. Chomp, chomp, chomp.


  1. Listening to young children create stories is fascinating. Most often, the "good guys" win and the ending is happy.
    What they create in the middle of their story would never be what editors criticize as "the sagging middle"!

  2. Linda,

    The child in your post shows what a great and challenging audience young children are. He demonstrates their creativity, optimism, sense of adventure and appreciation of sound! Love his Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!

  3. Oh, that narrative that follows. As I slog through the middle, sometimes I feel like chomping something!