Method and Motivation: the moral of the story



As a thinking person, I really do dislike being manipulated by stories. It’s one of my main beefs against Disney. As a mother on stage at bedtime, however, I frequently find myself violating all my own higher standards of storytelling. Like many parents, I am exhausted, impatient and creatively challenged at bedtime, so if I do take the time to create a story, I fling myself onto that moral like a life raft. It just comes out of me, and I am appalled at myself.

I created a whole series of tales featuring Shasta, a young pony with a knack for getting into trouble. The jewel in the crown of this franchise was “Baby Pony Shas and the Unexpected Ring of Fire,” which tells how Baby Pony Shas was playing in the living room one morning when his mother was on the phone, for work, in the kitchen. Suddenly, the intoxicating smell of wood smoke beckoned him and, despite his mother’s warning to stay inside and to not –under any circumstances!– open the door or leave the house, Baby Pony Shas found himself doing just that, and following the lovely smell down streets lined with beautiful trees turning amazing shades of orange, yellow and red, to Mountainside Park, where there was a bonfire going, which felt really nice in the cool October air, and then suddenly, suddenly! Baby Pony Shas was surrounded by a ring of flames leaping ten feet high!

I will not insult you by giving you the moral of that story. (But it ends with Baby Pony Shas safely at home, deeply penitent.) As a writer, as a reader, I have nothing but disdain for manipulation and formulas. But as a parent, I need all the help I can get. What about you? Do you tell your own stories with morals, or gravitate to “The Boy Who Cried Wolf ” at bedtime?