Tools to Create Your Own Brand of Bedtime Story
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Create A Story

The Pirates in Pajamas Method for Story Creation

Step 1 - Character Development
Step 2 - Personality Portrait
Step 3 - Setting Development
Step 4 - Guided Story Journey: Tapping Into Your Imagination
Step 5 - Story Map
Step 6 - Record and Share Your Story

Step One: Character Development

The first step in the process of creating stories is Character Development. Flip through the character cards, quickly pulling out any card(s) that capture your attention. 

Place the character card you chose at the top of the “Character Development/Personality Portrait” worksheet in the space designated.  (Click on the image to download a printable copy.)

(If you are working with students in a classroom, or want to incorporate only the imaginative characters for your story, you can use an alternate worksheet “Character Development” or the "Character Pie." This includes only character development, without the Personality Portrait aspect.)

There are several questions designed to be a springboard to get you thinking about the character you chose.  Feel free to skip through the questions, answering only the ones you feel will help you get to know your character.  Think outside the box, above the box, behind the box. And above all, REMEMBER – THIS IS NOT A TEST! There are no right or wrong responses, and you do not have to answer every question. To get you started, here’s a few ideas I’ve heard other parents use in workshops:

- The Abominable Snowman’s greatest fear is hot chocolate and his name is Abe (Abominable is such a mouthful after all).

- A Fairy who must overcome her fear of flying.
- A Meteorologist who just can’t manage high (or low) pressures.
- A Dragon who has a particular weakness for roasted marshmallows.
- An Elephant who just has to accept that her nose is big.
- A Princess who just can’t stand peas.
- A Knight with a Dragon as a sidekick friend.

If possible, it is so helpful to do this brainstorming process in a group setting. Get together with your spouse, friends, your children. The more brains working on it, the more fun and crazy ideas will emerge.


Step Two: Personality Portrait

Painting a personality portrait of your child is the next step. You answer the same questions about your child as you did the character.  That way you can flesh out your character by borrowing from your child's personality.  This isn't necessary but I love how my children have learned from the 'characters' in the story becasue they relate to them so well.  You can choose which of your child's personality traits you would like to borrow.

One way to do this is by using a Ven Diagram.  In a Ven Diagram, you not only deal with similarities but also with polar opposites. This can be a fun way to work in terms of characterization. For instance, when Groucho Marx was creating his Charlie Chaplin character, he would often incorporate polar opposite characteristics or appearances. Pants that were just too big, and a jacket that was a little too small. Demonstratively generous, but without a cent to his name.

The use of polar opposites can offer children a subtle contradiction about something they have trouble with, or believe about themselves. A shy child who has trouble standing up for herself could see what it might look like to have a confident character counterpart stand up for something in the story. These characteristics can be personality traits, physical characteristics, things they are good at, things that get them into trouble, their motivations, weaknesses, strengths, likes and dislikes – it can be any of those things. Let me remind you however, this does not need to be a dissertation to be effective. Have fun with it. Go with whatever pops into your head first.


Step Three: Setting Development

Now, wander through the Setting cards and find a setting that appeals to you. Keep in mind that the character you’ve chosen, and setting don’t necessarily have to match. There is really no reason a Plastic Pink Flamingo couldn't have adventures on the Moon. When you find a setting that sparks your imagination go with it.

When you find a Setting that grabs you, place the card in the center spot of the “Setting Development” play-sheet. You’ll notice that each of the boxes surrounding the card deals with sensory detail. It’s what I like to call the Five Senses plus One: Sight, Sound, Taste, Touch, Smell, plus Emotion. Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine you are in the middle of this setting. Try and take in everything around you, using all of your senses.

When you’ve spent a few minutes exploring the setting in your mind, take a minute to jot these things down.This is also a great place to work as a group. If you can gather other people, your spouse, friends, children, etc. to brainstorm with you – you will inevitably come up with more ideas and a stronger picture of the setting in your mind.  Why is this so important? It is generally the sensory details included in a story that draws the listener in. Sensory details activate the listener’s imagination. These details also allow your character to interact with the setting in a much more life-like way, also allowing the listener to relate to the story on a more personal level.


Step Four: Guided Story Journey

Imagination is an incredibly powerful thing – and like all powerful things it requires some practice to master. What I have found for myself and the many others I have worked with is that as you practice using your imagination it gets easier and there are surprising insights that will come to you as you create by visualing.

Tapping into your imagination is a generative and revitalizing process – and it helps you to learn to trust yourself. There is a richness there that cannot be accessed through the hard labor of writing.  Using your imagination is also the most efficient and effective way I have found to create stories. Building on this idea, I developed a method to give you easy access to your imagination in the form of guided imagery. I have carefully selected folktales that are fun and engaging, but also rich with the values I would like to share with my children, and made them into a guided imagery journey.

All you have to do is close your eyes and imagine your character(s) in your setting, then listen to the guided story journey and watch your character(s) experience the plot like a movie in your mind. 

It might sound terrifying to you at first, to think, “I’m going to close my eyes and actually see something?” You will. But let me help you know what to expect. As I have practiced this skill and taught it to others, I have noticed a few patterns that occur in the process of learning to use your imagination. Most of the time, the first thing you will see is not very clear. It may be foggy or it may be the beginnings of a silhouette, that you can just begin make out. It’s not very clear, but when you pay attention to what you are seeing, and start describing it in your mind, it becomes more clear. It is almost as if you sense the details in the image as much or more than you see them. It will likely not look like a photograph – it’s more alive than that. It’s almost as if you are living it. Just pay attention to what you are experiencing and try your best to describe it with words as you experience it. Give yourself permission to take whatever comes.


Try Guided Story Journey right now. To access these audio files click HERE.



Step Five: Story Map

If you were to sit down and write out everything you just saw in your imagination it would take hours. Most of us don’t have hours to put into story making; especially if we want to create a regular storytelling time with our children. That is where the “Story Map” comes in.

Story Maps are quite simply, a map of your story. You break down the story into eight or so ‘stepping stones’ to help you quickly remember the sequence of the story. You can draw yourself some simple images or figures for each scene, to help prompt your memory. Mix this with a few key words and you can recreate the story in your mind by reviewing the map right before you tell it.  You do not have to be an artist to make this work – you are the only one who needs to look at your map – so don’t worry about how it looks, just get the basics that will help you remember your story.


Step Six: Share and Record

Now that you have a story ready to share with your children – set up a time to tell it. Make an appointment. No – better yet, put your storytelling date on the calendar and let your children know about it to build their anticipation. I know it sounds silly, but this is often the hardest part of the process. You may not think your story is worth sharing, but remember you are important to your family, therefore your story is important to them. If you don’t share it with someone, it is just as if you didn’t create the story at all.

When you tell the story, I recommend you also record it. You can do this on a cassette tape, or a simple digital recorder. I use a small digital recorder (nothing professional needed here) and then import the file into my computer. This way it is preserved without the extra time involved to write it all out. Then later, if you’d like, you can transcribe the recording and have a written copy too. It is also possible to burn the audio recording onto a CD for your children to listen to again later.


Once you've made the initital investment of creating characters and a setting you can produce story after story in less than 10 minutes with our Guided Story Journeys.

Good luck. Have fun. Enjoy the journey. And share your stories!