One Unbreakable Storytelling Rule from Matt Phelan

Hurrah! The first draft of Story Club is done! It took me a lot longer than I thought it would. So much longer. It felt like running a marathon, when I'm used to running 5K's (a.k.a. writing blog posts). But that's all in the past, now. Onward!

I "finished" last Thursday and this week I'm working on making it actually presentable. At the end of the week I'm sending it to my lovely, in-house editor Ashley. (She really is a free-lance editor, did you know?)

While I go work on eliminating typos and creating parallel structure across chapters, you can read this lovely storytelling tip that Matt Phelan shared at the Decatur Book Festival:
Matt Phelan Storytelling Rule
 "You can't say NO."- Matt Phelan #DBF2014

Matt Phelan spoke on a panel with Amy Krouse Rosenthal (R) and Kelly Light (L), moderated by Laurel Snyder (far L). It was great. And when it was time for audience Q&A I had the chance to ask the question "What tips do you have for storytelling?"

Kelly Light talked about how bedtime stories with her daughter became serial. She started out telling a story one night and wrapped it up neatly. But the next night her daughter opened it up again and wanted more. What she thought was going to be a standalone turned into a series.

Matt Phelan springboarded right off of this and talked about how he went to college for drama, not for writing, where he played improv games. The only rule with improv games (when someone is on stage with you and the two of you are making up the story as you go along) is that you can't say "NO."

"That deflates the balloon" as Matt put it. When someone comes up with something, you have to roll with it and say "Yes! And..." So that is his tip for storytelling with your kids. If they jump in and start to improvise, (mine have) you can't say, "No, no. This is what happened really..." you have to just roll with it and move along.

Funny thing is that I knew this rule, but I still tried to break it a month or so ago. Levi was like, "And then, [wacky tangent]. . . " and I listened politely and was like "Well actually . . . thus and so . . . The End." Levi listened politely himself and then was like, "No, it actually went like [my way]." I let it drop, because I knew I was trying to break a rule that really can't be broken. Also, I knew you can lead a horse to the Kool-Aid but you can't make him drink.

What has been your experience with this?

p.s. You know I like Matt Phelan's books! I've collected my reviews of them here. I haven't yet read Kelly Light's book, Louise Loves Art, but I intend to. It comes out today, in fact! It sounds fabulous and she seems very smart. Amy Krouse Rosenthal was also lovely to meet, and I reviewed one of her titles here.

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