This is a short story, designed to help you do a wonderful thing for your child: turn the dull, humdrum events of life into vivid, entrancing narrative. How marvelous to be able to say: there is more to this life than the dreary day-to-day of school, work, TV, dinner, bed. There is imagination. There are stories.
Here we go:
Charlotte And The Dragon
It’s been an exhausting day with Grandma—
—or Mom and Dad, or Aunt Lauren, or Uncle Pete. Fill this in however you wish. Similarly, change the child’s name in the story to match your child’s name. I’m calling my girl Charlotte but she could be Will, or Benjamin, or Celeste, or Eddie and Stacy, the Smith kids, etc. What you’re doing here is turning the day into outlandish narrative. Be sure to start as realistically, as accurately, as you can. When the story gets fantastical, well, realism can, and should, fly out the bedroom window.
—and Grandma’s tired. Exhausted from the day at the [zoo][lake][beach][woods][park].
Grandma’s content to doze on the bench while Charlotte swings. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…
And, boy, does Charlotte swing. Higher and higher and higher. She sees the view up ahead: houses, roofs, trees. Higher. A leafy street. Higher. Clouds and blue sky. A ghostly moon. Higher! Up ahead, cars are moving down [Magnolia Boulevard]. Too far away to hear. Higher! Charlotte’s legs are pumping. She’s pulling hard on the swing chain. Her face is exultant and wild.
Then she sees it. A large bird, and it gets bigger and bigger the closer it gets. It’s coming right for Charlotte. It can’t be a bird. Its wings are too long. As it gets closer Charlotte can see that it doesn’t have feathers: it has scales. Its eyes are beady and bloodshot red. Its nose flares, and when it does, black smoke comes out. Oh, no! It’s—
Huge: twenty five feet wide if it’s an inch. Yikes.
What does Charlotte do? Jump down and hide behind Grandma’s skirts? Helllllllllllp!
No. She makes one more powerful and surging swing: up, up, up. Then she jumps! Flies through the air.
And lands on the dragon’s back. The dragon, for her part—
All dragons are female, BTW, a little-known fact.
—flies, up, up, up.
Soon Charlotte is looking out on an altered landscape: forest, as far as she can see. Sparkling lakes. Stream and winding rivers. Mountains. The world primeval. No houses, no cars, no smoggy city. Wow.
Charlotte laughs with delight. She’s never seen anything like this. Wow! Mountains and weird hills. Cliffs. Vistas. Thick viney forests. No one in sight. Different from [your town/city’s name here] for sure.
Then Charlotte does something – accidentally. She slaps her hand down on the dragon’s back. The dragon takes off, flying fast. Faster than you can imagine. Its strong wings are whumping away, pumping hard, churning the air. Faster, and faster! Faster! Charlotte holds on for dear life. She finds handholds in the dragon’s scales and she holds on. Pretty soon the dragon’s going too fast. The word’s zipping by in a blur. It’s scary.
Then without thinking about Charlotte hits the dragon twice. “Slow down!” Immediately the dragon slows down. It stops flapping its huge wings. It’s sailing, soaring. It finds a thermal – that’s a chute of heated air – and goes up.
Now Charlotte learns how to fly the dragon. She slaps her on the right side and the dragon turns to the right. Starboard, as they say. On the left side, to the left. Port. She slaps the dragon on the front and the dragon dives; on the back, and she climbs.
This is fun!
Charlotte looks down. She sees a river, sparkling in the sunshine. She whacks the dragon on the right and on the front. The dragon turns to the right and dives, picking up speed. Charlotte holds on.
Suddenly the dragon is swooping over the river, flapping its wings. The ends of her wings touch the water. Down the river the dragon flies, leaving small splashes in its wake. Charlotte looks down, at her reflection in the water. Know what she’s doing?
Charlotte slaps the dragon toward the front, It climbs, going up, up, up. Charlotte looks around: the world is nothing but forest, undulating, stretching as far as the eyes can see. Charlotte closes her eyes. The dragon keeps flying. After a moment, the dragon begins descending.
Charlotte opens her eyes. Down below she sees the park. Houses. Cars. Her neighborhood. Grandma dozing on the bench. The dragon spirals down. Very quietly, she lands. Oddly, no one seems to notice her. Charlotte hops off the dragon’s back, then watches as she flies away, disappearing into the sun. Charlotte waves. “See ya.”
Then she goes to her Grandma. “Hi, Grandma.”
“Oh. Hi, Charlotte. Did you have a good swing?”
“I sure did.”
Well, the story world is your oyster. Maybe the Charlotte and the dragon descend to a village. Maybe some not-so-good guys (okay, let’s call ’em Bad Buys) are terrorizing the village and Charlotte and the dragon, after some satisfying melodrama, send them packing. Maybe C and the dragon fly to the moon and have low-gravity adventures with a lanky race of wild moon-children. Maybe they spy a dark and dank castle and C and the dragon break in and they slay a wicked witch.
Okay, okay, this last one is stolen directly from The Wizard Of Oz. My advice: be brazen about this. Will the owners of The Wizard copyright care? No. Unless you sell your story to a publisher (and what’s the chance of this?) they won’t even know. Will Charlotte care? It’s quite possible, even probable, that Charlotte has never seen The Wizard Of Oz. So steal away.
These new stories can happen the same night or perhaps the next night, as “Charlotte And The Dragon” becomes the basis for that most satisfying type of story in the dark, the multi-nighter.
One bit of advice: create the story world in rich detail. The feel of the sunshine, the blue of the sky, the dragon’s giddy swooping and gliding, the wind in Charlotte’s hair.
And buy Tell Me A Story In The Dark! It contains many stories that you can use, plus it details the process of making up bedtime stories on your own. Click on the words book page and you’ll be whisked to the publisher’s site – just like you’ll transport Charlotte.