The fun part about creating an original bedtime story is that you can introduce the names of your children as well as people, places, and pets that they know to create a personalized tale of adventure. If the idea of creating a story is overwhelming, keep in mind that you can use the basic structure of fairy tales to guide you.
Introduce the Main Character
Start the story by introducing the main character. What is his or her everyday life like? In Cinderella, we learn that her father is absent (on business or deceased) and her stepmother and stepsisters are bossy and force her to do all the household chores.
What Does the Character Want?
Next, convey the character’s goal. If you’ve ever seen a classic Disney cartoon musical, the main character tells us during the second song that she wants adventure, respect, love, etc.
The character’s desire may come in the form of a challenge or quest introduced by an outside force – the king announces that the man who rescues his daughter from the dragon will marry the princess.
Introduce an Antagonist
The antagonist doesn’t have to be an evil villain (this is a bedtime story). Monsters should have childlike traits so they aren’t scary. The antagonist is someone who gets in the main character’s way to his goal.
Introduce a Mentor and Some Additional Challenges
Someone, a mentor, appears to offer the main character guidance and help. The old lady, whom the hero shares his lunch with, turns around and tells him about a shortcut that will help him reach his goal more swiftly.
The fish the hero rescues from a tangle of plants will appear later in the story to help the hero meet the challenge of finding a diamond tossed into a river.
Traditionally, in fairy tales, the character experiences three challenges to overcome before he can succeed.
Show the Character’s Strengths
These encounters with other people and creatures show how the character’s strengths – kindness, patience, bravery, etc. – come into play. In a fairy tale, a character doesn’t have to be a well-rounded person. Select no more than three descriptive traits that your protagonist, the main character, exemplifies.
Let the Character Succeed
After experiencing and overcoming the challenges between them and their goal, the main character gets what he or she was looking for in the beginning.
Telling the Story
Practice telling your story aloud – perhaps while driving to and from work. When you go to tell the story, you can have a few notes jotted on an index card, but avoid writing out the story in detail. Kids may ask questions, so stay flexible. If you don’t know the answer to a question, ask your children to wait and see – they might forget their question, or you might be inspired with a solution.
Avoid telling stories that teach a lesson – your son has been bothering you for a new bike so you tell him a story about a prince who wants a horse but in the end accepts that he can’t get one. Kids see through moralistic tales.
So, to create an original bedtime tale, show us what a character wants (and how it will make her life better), introduce some assistance and some challenges, and end your story on a hopeful note.