Seven Steps to a Better Bedtime Story

Here’s another post I wrote some years ago for the Storywarren blog…

There is a calico cat that treads about our backyard like a fancy hobo.  He’s scrawny and haughty both.  I did this picture after a conversation my wife and I had about him.

If you are the parent entrusted with bedtime story duties, perhaps you might conjure up a journey for him and see where he goes.

Those who struggle with meandering bedtime stories might consider picking up a book like Brian McDonald’s, Invisible Ink.  He lists seven steps to a better story.  These structural helps are:

1.  Once upon a time…

2.  And every day…

3.  Until one day…

4.  And because of this…

5.  And because of this…

6.  Until finally…

7.  And ever since that day…


These steps can help you organize events into causally related story moments.

They can turn this interaction:


SON: Dad, can you tell me a story?

DAD: Sure, um.  I skipped breakfast this morning and went to lunch early.  The End.  Get some sleep.


Into this:


SON: Dad, can you tell me a story?

DAD: Sure.

One day when I was a child I discovered I could eat three meals a day.

And every day I ate a meal in the morning, a meal in the afternoon, and a meal at night.

Until this morning.  My alarm wasn’t set properly and I overslept and missed the first meal.

And because of this, I was hungry all morning.

And because of this, I held my stomach, sighed heavily, and scowled at my co-workers.

Until finally, I could bear the hunger cravings no longer, and I got in my car, drove to Panera, and devoured all kinds of meat and bread.

And ever since that glorious meal I have forgotten how to scowl, rediscovered the mysterious art of smiling, and most important of all, I have taken pains to set my alarm properly so that the hungry monster unleashed this morning might never rise again.

The End.

SON: Wow.

DAD: Get some sleep.

SON: Impossible.

The second scenario is entirely plausible.

If you do end up telling a story about a cane-toting, necktie-sporting, top hat-wearing cat, drop me a line and let me know how it went.


Published by Zach

I'm a writer and illustrator living in Creedmoor NC.

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