Stories for my Niece

Before my niece was born my brother asked me if I’d like to write her some stories.  There were two problems with this. Firstly, any stories for her would require pictures and my drawing is abysmal, as is my skill at hunting down on-line pictures for my blog.  Secondly, I have never before attempted to write for children. The creative side of my brain being very much attracted to the darker end of the fantasy spectrum.  I called my blog the Wicked Queen’s Mirror for goodness sake, not the Princess in the tower – although towers, glass coffins, glass slippers they’re all a bit wrong if you look too closely.

My niece is now a toddler and despite some efforts I haven’t managed to come up with anything. She does read though, and she remembers.  On one visit I found myself enchanted while she rattled out verbatim the entirety of The Gruffalo while taking the role of the little brown mouse.  My brother played the Gruffalo himself with equal enthusiasm but markedly less talent.  Watching my niece’s performance it made me wonder how much I will really get to know her, or she me. Our homes are separated by The Thames and the circular car park of the M25.  As my niece babbled away about the Gruffalo’s terrifying appearance, I had the sudden, desperate urge to connect to her through the medium that we both loved.

 

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I do genuinely believe that stories are one of the most important things in society and they bring people together though shared experience and identity. For a moment I did consider reinventing some fairy tales for my niece.  I wanted her to know that Little Red Riding Hood can be a role model and before the Victorians got hold of her she was more than capable of rescuing herself from the wolf.  That is the entirely wrong way to go about it though.  How can I share an experience with my niece if I am preaching down to her?  I have not enjoyed trying to write children’s stories, but I do enjoy reading them. I believe I will have more success if I find out what my niece loves and enter her world. Perhaps that way, rather than being the wicked queen I will remember what it was like to be the princess stepping out in the world in innocence and shed some of my cynicism.  I will no longer be horrified and repelled by the colour pink. Who knows, perhaps that could lead to me writing something she will enjoy.  Failing that, if I am very lucky, one day when she’s grown up, she may get a slightly twisted variation on Little Red Riding Hood dedicated to her.

How about you? Are there any parents, aunties or uncles out there who have written stuff for children, or do the children in your life inspire you to write? Let me know, I need some help here.

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5 thoughts on “Stories for my Niece

  1. Your niece sounds adorable. 🙂

    Debbie? To begin with, have you tried maybe building a story with her? My neighbour has twins – aged six, I think – and I often hear them playing a sort of fill-in-the-blank story game. So, as a start, what if you sat down with her – put in about three sentences, and then let her add to it? That takes the “preaching” element that you were worried about out of the equation and makes the story a dynamic thing that she is a part of. And if you wrote things down and had her illustrate it, would that help?

    Maybe this would serve as a base to build on? An idea pool, of sorts. You could always refine them later.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. Some of my favourite memories are of my mother reading to me and my dad taking me to a library as a kid. After I picked the books I wanted to check out, he’d buy me ice-cream and we’d find a park bench to sit on and talk about the books I chose. I think just establishing dialogue about books and reading serves to bring people closer together.

    Let me know what you decide to do, okay? I’d love to read the stories you come up with!

    • Tanya, thank you so much. My niece is the first small person in my life and I’m still getting used to talking with her. I never would have considered having her help to build the story. I’m seeing her next weekend and will try that out. Thanks for sharing your own memory too.

  2. My kids and I play a game with cards–those “ABC” type cards that have pictures on them for every letter. We take turns drawing cards from a pile and build a story (usually quite bizarre) from the cards we have drawn, and lay them out in a long story-chain. We have to “read” the story every time we draw a card. IT’s a fun game that teaches, by example, the fundamentals of storytelling.
    Or, tell her a bedtime story. Let your mind wander. Use familiar images like wardrobes, and giants, magic seeds and red capes with hoods. She’s probably never heard of them before and, like all children, will love it.
    Remember dear, it’s supposed to be fun. With no pressure.
    Gia started as a bedtime serial, and then when I wrote it, totally morphed into something else. (Have I told you I hate it now? Gaaaaah!)
    Go. Tell stories. Have fun!
    ~Just Jill

    • Sorry to hear you hate Gia now. I’m still holding out for a sequel. Love that it started as a bedtime story though. I think my niece does have some ‘abc’ cards. Thanks for the tip.

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