Sunday, December 20, 2009

Inspirations And Influences

Every writer has his influences and inspirations. Some are more apparent than others.

As I’ve posted before, our preschool student storytellers have the option of doing other things while awaiting a turn to tell their story, or they can hang out and listen to their friends tell stories. Not surprisingly, those who stay to listen are often influenced by those that come immediately before them.

Finn V. has been a prolific storyteller this year, badgering me to get out my storytelling clipboard almost every day. He favors graphic action stories, but has lately been inserting silliness:

About a army soldier who throwed a grenade. And then a truck ran over the soldier. And then some jets shot missles at each other. And then one of the tanks shot at the army guy. And then bleed came out of the army guy’s mouth. He was hurt. And then a whole army of duckies came and battled the army soldiers. And then the ducky tank shot up one on the army soldiers. And then the grenade threw on one of the duckies. And then the ducky had blood coming out of its mouth.

This is a dramatic, grisly and goofy tale. It’s no wonder it influenced Thomas, who had been lurking nearby waiting for his turn. I like how he interwove Finn’s influence with his favorite themes of forklifts and energetic rhyming:

Then the fighter jet. And then the noodle builded. And the fighter jet hit the noodle. And then the noodle got killed by a bomb. And then the forklift killed the ducky and the ducky killed the forklift. And the forklift pumped themselves out and went into a hot air balloon. And the ice and the mice had a fight with the forklift.

Jack was waiting in the wings and took up Thomas’ silly tone and fork lift theme:

There was a silly forklift. And then he bonked on his head on the roof. And then he just found another forklift and one just carried up and put him in hot lava. And then the other forklift put the other forklift inside of hot lava.

Sometimes literary influences work as grease on the skids, unleashing a torrent of passion and creativity. Max overheard Dennis tell this short story:

Grasshopper and panda crashed into a tree.

I’ve been trying to get more of Max’s stories written down. He spins yarns all day long, but so far this year hasn’t normally been in the mood when I’ve had the clipboard out. It took Dennis to get him going:

Once upon a time there was a panda bear. This is the scary part. One dark night there was a ghost. Then a skeleton. Then a grim reaper. Then a creature from the black lagoon. Then a cow. Then a glowing arm. Then a creature.

The next day, however, he was in rare form, leaping off from Dennis’ influence into his own interpretation of a story inspired by a movie:

It’s about the Iron Giant. He’s made of iron. And he was standing right there next to the boy. Then he kneeled down. Then he liked to eat metal, ‘cause he was an iron giant. And then he saw some metal stuff and he didn’t know it was electric stuff. And then he tried to grab it and broke his electric circuits. Then he fell down and broke his pieces. And then his pieces came back to him and he was signaling the pieces. And then they came back together. And then he came from outer space in a tiny spaceship. It was a robot that came from outer space, bigger than you can reach. Then he saw the army and he turned all crazy – springs coming out of his head. Then he had to defeat the big bomb and then he disappeared up in the sky to defeat the big bomb. And he disappeared. He could fly. And then there was a statue of it in the park. And then it was signaling its pieces and then the pieces went to the Iceland and they found the head in the Iceland. He came back to the boy and he had to stay in the barn because he was too big.

As much as I love how the children influence one another, the advantage of being influenced by movies or other “professional” narratives is that the kids are exposed to conventions like story arcs that have a beginning, middle and end. It was pretty nifty how Max holds it together – in spite of the great length of his tale – by bringing the boy from the first line back into the conclusion.

Here is a fantastic, very tight example of this writing convention as employed by Ella:

The princess and the pea. Once upon a time there was a lovely girl named Princess And The Pea. She wanted to take her test, but it was just too hard and she couldn’t sleep with the tiny pea. And solved the problem. She ate it, but she didn’t say anything. And that’s the end of the story.

If you’re interested in reading more of the children’s stories, here are the links:

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Unknown said...

This made my day! Thanks, Teacher Tom!

Unknown said...

Children's stories are enchanting. I could listen to them all day!