So you’ve decided you want to tell a story to your child every night before they go to bed, but you’ve read every book in your house over and over, and the only thing you can think of on your own is, “Once upon a time . . .” But as someone who created a series of books out of my simple bedtime stories, I can tell you that becoming a master storyteller isn’t so complicated. Here are my top tips for telling bedtime stories your child will adore!
Cater to your child’s interests. Think about which books your kid loves to read. Are they about horses, sports, magic, pirates? Draw your subject from there, or even combine some of them! You could tell a story about a magic pirate and his horse companion competing to become World Champions in a horse race. The more creative you get with your child’s interests, the more interesting your story will be to them.
Keep it short. Kids don’t have very long attention spans, and by bedtime they should already be pretty wiped out. Just keep the storyline simple—you have a character, there is a problem, the problem gets bigger, and then the character resolves the problem. You should be able to keep it under ten minutes. If you have more to tell, continue on the next night.
Make your child the star! You’re always telling your child that they can be anything they want to be, right? Well here’s your chance to tell them a story about becoming president, discovering cures for diseases, getting a record deal, or whatever it is their biggest dreams are. Even if you put them in stories that are unrealistic, like how I put my son John in the Night Buddies stories, hearing about themselves as protagonists in the stories you tell will boost their confidence and help them realize that you truly believe in them to do and be anything they want.
Tell the story together. I’ve said before that my son John is the one who came up with our red, talking crocodile friend Crosley, and I think it truly goes to show that the best stories are ones that you and your child come up with together. Ask them to create a character, a storyline, or a setting. Tell the story back and forth to each other a sentence at a time. They will feel proud for having created something fun, and it will bond you two closer together.
What are some bedtime stories you’ve told your child? Any tips for the new storytellers out there? Let me know in the comments below!
As authors, we write books for people to read. We don’t make movies; we want people to follow our stories through our words. So where do we start when we have to all of a sudden turn our literary stories into visual ones?
Well, when I was making my trailer for Night Buddies Go Sky High, I began by thinking about what a book trailer ought to do.
1. Give readers information on what Night Buddies was about.
2. Give readers a feel for what they would find on the page.
3. Generate enough interest in a viewer to look more into reading a Night Buddies book.
When you’re creating a book trailer, you have to understand that most likely, the trailer won’t sell the book. Trailers are used as a jumping point, meaning that they should be intriguing enough, cute enough, or funny enough for someone to think, “I want more.” With that in mind, I knew I had to focus on how to give readers information about my book and give them a feel for its style in an intriguing, cute, or funny way. No pressure.
I think the best thing you can do as an author is work with what you have. I knew I wasn’t going to make a million-dollar, special-effect-filled, Hollywood-style trailer. My book didn’t call for one of those. What I needed was something simple, short, and to the point. I decided to use what visual tools I already had—the illustrations from my book—and combine them with my strongest asset, my writing.
What I ended up with was this:
I utilized what tools I couldn’t use in a book, mainly audio such as children’s cheering and music in the background that gave a sense for the whimsical, cute nature of the story, to make the trailer that much more interesting to watch, but overall I just let my characters tell the story, just like they do in the book. I’m of the mind that book trailers don’t have to, and really shouldn’t be, complex. If you have an interesting story, and a book trailer that really represents it, you don’t need to worry about making it feature-film status.
Do you enjoy watching book trailers? Have you used one to promote one of your books? Link it in the comments below!
Sharing bedtime stories with your child is an important night-time ritual for many parents. In fact, research has shown that children of parents who have bedtime stories show increased brain activity, particularly vocabulary and logic skills. Those skills will serve as the foundation for a better reader for the rest of their life. Bedtime stories also deepen your relationship with your kids and help to establish a bedtime routine (something every parent needs for their child). It’s also a time for both parents and children to wind down for the day.
Having said that, coming up with a bedtime story for your child EVERY night can be a little overwhelming. You can only read the same books so many times before your child gets bored. You can only talk about the same characters (princesses and superheroes) for so long.
Courtesy of Pixabay
So what do you do when your child asks for a story and your mind goes blank?
1. Put your child in the story.
Whether it’s princesses or superheroes (or superhero princesses), allowing your child the opportunity to be in the story stretches their thinking muscles and enhances their linguistic skills. It also gives the chance to develop and enhance another muscle, their imagination.
Courtesy of Pixabay
2. If you are reading a book, ask them, “What do you think happens next?”
Courtesy of Pixabay
3. Put your child in the storyteller’s seat. Ask them to tell you their favorite story.
Asking your child to retell a story back to you gives you (the master storyteller) a break. In addition to allowing them to practice another important skill, memory. Because children (actually everyone) remembers what they believe is important, allowing your child to tell the story gives you a front row seat into what your child values.
Courtesy of Pixabay
4. Take an old story and add a unique spin to it.
This is an old trick that people ranging from writers to Disney use. Take an old story that everyone knows like “Red Riding Hood” and re-imagine it. What is Red Riding Hood could fly? What if Jack didn’t climb the beanstalk, choosing to take the elevator?
Courtesy of Pixabay
The point of these suggestions is to make storytelling fun and interactive. Storytime should not be a tired old routine that you do because you have to. Storytime should be an important time for your child to relax and develop the skills that will serve them in their lifetime.
I’ll bet you’ve never heard of my favorite ghost story. It’s called “Shottle Bop” by Theodore Sturgeon (Astounding Science Fiction, 1940). The central character is a ne’er-do-well, not altogether bad guy, who is down on his luck. He comes across a dusty little bottle shop in lower Manhattan and goes in to meet the strange little proprietor who gives him a potion in a bottle and tells him,
“It can do as much for you as you want it to.
But mind me now. As long as you use what
it gives you for your self-improvement, you
will thrive. Use it for self-glorification, as a
basis for boasting, or for revenge, and you
will suffer in the extreme. Remember that, now.”
Our character goes home, drinks the potion, and is suddenly able to see into the ghost world. And the truly remarkable thing is, he can see the ghosts but they can’t see him! In any event, he manages to take up with a number of them and becomes rich as a “psychic consultant.” Eventually he runs into an old enemy who calls him a phony. He bets the guy that he can show him a spook that will scare him half to death. They go to a haunted house where the ghost of an awful old murderer is supposed to live. Our man’s invisibility magic wears off, though, because he has boasted and plotted revenge. The old murderer sees him, and our friend ends up, well, quite dead. And he has to haunt the old house forever–along with the horrible old murderer.
The story isn’t all that scary (except at the end), but it’s wall-to-wall supernatural phenomena, and delightfully funny and original. It’s the finest ghost story I’m aware of. Invisibility is by no means the only device scary stories use, but both of these examples rely on it.
I don’t do dead things or lots of scary. My only scary characters are the iguanas, and they are as amusing as they are frightening. In Night Buddies, Impostors, and One Far-Out Flying Machine, there is one scary scene where Crosley morphs into an iguana and hijacks John and his blimp. The fright comes from what you thought was a friend turning into an enemy. And there is one example of terror in the dark at the very end of the book, but let’s not give that away. If you are looking for real ghosts or real terror, check out Sturgeon. I promise you real results.
As you read in our first blog post, the world of Night Buddies started out as original bedtime stories shared between father and son and then turned into the 5-time-award winning children’s book series that it is today.
In this blog we will talk about some ways you can create bedtime stories with your children. These stories can be about sweet moments you’ve shared with your kids or things they remember doing with a favorite relative or best friend. This fun and inventive activity will help deepen your relationship with your children and create lasting memories. So why not give it a try!
First, start off with the characters. The main character can be anything or anyone your child identifies with. The main character in your bedtime stories can be your child herself or himself , just like John in the Night Buddies books! Feel free to make up a small cast of characters. Fill the story with characters your child is fond of. The cast should be full of friends or pets or stuffed animals, like Crosley the red crocodile! Your child will love making up scenarios that get their day-to-day friends or pets into wacky situations.
Next, pick a setting. It can be in outer space or maybe even a far off island. Are your characters trying to travel the world? Are the characters spending the day at the best amusement park in town? The setting can be anywhere. Your child probably already has the perfect place in mind.
Finally, come up with a theme or genre and each night lead the characters into small, silly situations and conflicts. Are your characters explorers hunting for treasure? Are they detectives solving mysteries? Are your characters trying to lasso the moon? A good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning says who the story is about and where and when it happened, the middle says what happened, and the end is how the story finishes up.
Best of luck to you and your child as you spend bedtime exploring the world you’ve created with your rag-tag characters!