Thursday, January 26, 2012

A story to illustrate plot

Firstborn: "What is plot?"

Me: "Well, let's look at a story."

Once upon a time, there were two boys. Their names were {Firstborn} and {Secondborn}. Firstborn and Secondborn were lost in the woods. They had no idea how to find their way home.

Firstborn: "Let's say we went to Target and bought a new calendar and put it on the wall. And then we went to bed, and when we woke up our bed was in the woods and we didn't know how we got there."

Me: "Okay. Creepy. We'll work it in."

So Firstborn and Secondborn got out of their bed, which was now in the middle of the woods. They looked around. Then they saw something moving in the bushes - something really, really big. They said, "Ahhhh! A monster! Run away!" And they ran and ran.

Then they came to a clearing. You know what a clearing is? It's an open space where there aren't any trees. And in that clearing was a house. Firstborn and Secondborn saw the house, and they said: "A house! Maybe somebody who lives there can help us." So they went and knocked on the door.

The door swung open, so they went in. Inside the house was a witch, in a long black dress and a pointy black hat. She looked at the boys, and said, "Oh, good, you're just in time for dinner."

Firstborn said, "Good. We are very hungry. We would love some dinner."

But the witch said, "No, you don't understand. I am very hungry, and I'm going to have you for dinner!" And she used her magic to close the door and make it so they couldn't open it.

Firstborn: "And then I went bonk! bonk! and I threw her into the wall!"

Me: "Okay, then."

So the witch was knocked out. And since she was knocked out, the spell that held the door closed didn't work anymore. So Firstborn opened the door and said, "Now we can go home."

But Secondborn picked up the witch's broom. "I bet we can use this to get home," he said.

So Firstborn and Secondborn went outside, and they sat on the broom. Just then a big monster came out of the woods. The monster said, "You bonked my witch! I will eat you up!"

But Firstborn and Secondborn said, "Too late! We are going to fly away on this broom!" And they flew up into the air, and the monster couldn't get them.

Then they flew the broom all the way home, and lived happily ever after. The End.

Me: "So, who were the characters in the story?"

Firstborn: "Me, and {Secondborn}. And the witch... and the big guy."

Me: (surprised) "Very good. So the characters are Who Is In The Story. Now, the plot is What Happens In The Story."

Firstborn: (looks thoughtful)

Me: (ticking off points on my fingers) "You woke up in the woods. You ran away from the monster. You found a house. You went inside. The witch tried to eat you. You bonked the witch. You took the broom. You escaped the monster. You flew home. That's the plot."

Me: "Now, what's the setting?"

Firstborn: "The forest."

Me: (surprised, again) "Very good. You've been working on this in school?"

Firstborn: "Yes."

Me: "Well, now when you get to plot, you'll know what the plot is, right? It's what happens in the story."

Firstborn: "Right."

* * *

It occurs to me on reading this that Firstborn also has a natural understanding of roleplay. In fact, this might count as the first GMing I've done in years.

Firstborn will be six in June - so he's just over five and a half years old right now. Secondborn will be two in mid-April, so he's about one and three quarters right now. So while Secondborn talks in the story, he mostly sort of burbles in real life - his current vocabulary is about two dozen words. ("Mommy, Daddy, Elmo, Apple, Water, Please, Choo-Choo (train), Beep-Beep (car), Meow (Cat), Pizza," and like that.)


  1. I think Firstborn has a better sense of plot than many on the Internet.

    And I would call my cats Purrbox and Existential Cat Angst (though both would be hard for a two year old to pronounce.)

  2. Our cats are Syn (short for Syncronicity) and Astrophe.

    And yeah, Firstborn does great adventure stories. Unfortunately, they very often require me to move Transformers or Bakugans or Imaginext Guys around while he feeds me my half of the script. Ad-libbing on my part is frowned upon.

  3. Well, it's just no fun when Cthulhu crashes the party and eats everyone.

    My cats are actually named Miss Tiger (Purrbox, she has a REALLY loud purr) and, depending on who you ask, Fluffy/Big Bear/Kazakhstan (Existential Cat Angst, as he tends to meow for no apparent reason).

  4. Wow! Six in June! Amazing. Boy will be 5 in May, then... Starts K next year, will be all sorts of fun. Now, if I could just get myself to remember to check his backpack for homework on the days I have him I'll be set!

    Cats. Heh, My oldest, Homer purrs loudly, and will occasionally walk into a room, and start this bellyaching loud meow, much like Glenda's cat (i.e. for no good reason, other than to get the other cats in the room so he can do a run-by pawing)

    My next, Cleo is well, how do I put it nicely? A large ball of hair that coughs up and deposits smaller, moister balls of hair. Not a pleasant habit.

  5. Oh, and on interesting conversations between father and son:

    I forget exactly what I was doing, [for the uninitiated, I am a hobbyist chemist; I do chemistry at home for fun. Mr Mock knows this and is presumably frightened by it... ;)], any way, I had some solution, my son was watching me with it with great interest, I think I was doing iron chemistry at the time, and it was orange. A couple weeks ago, I prepared the typical purple cabbage indicator and showed him how different things changed the color of the indicator. This stuck with him. He liked it. He now is pretty sure daddy has magical properties and abilities. I'm filtering off the solid part of the solution from the liquid, after soaking some iron bits in a concoction of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. As he's watching with extreme interest, he suddenly pipes up with, "Daddy! Make it change colors!"

    Uh oh....

    ... That's when I knew he was hooked. I just wonder if he'll gleefully inflict potassium permanganate + glycerin (Search YouTube) on me or his mom like I did to my parents. (I'll never forget the look of sheer horror on my mom's face...)

  6. Firstborn does indeed seem to have a nicely-developed sense of story. Of course, he's lucky to have a dad who plays along!

    (Fathers and sons: AnaMardoll introduced me to the Mark Reads site. I was bouncing around there today to see what looked interesting, and I came across this piece. You see what happens when you let the audience interrupt.)

    As for Secondborn, surely any vocabulary list of an almost two-year-old begins with "No."


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