She hollered after me, "Daddy, can I listen to a story?"
See, we have this iPod all loaded up with audio books, because we love audiobooks (another pedagogical story for another time).
"I'm sorry, sweetie, but the iPods are both broken. They got water on them." The results of a tragic cupholder broken water bottle debacle that ruined 2 iPods, unless the magic bags 'o rice do the trick.
"Then can you just tell me a story?" she says all cute.
"Sure," I say. I'm a creative writing teacher and unpublished novel writer...I can do this, right?
So I lay my head on the bed next to her and get started.
"Once upon a time, there was a girl frog named Isabelle, and she loved to race. The problem was, she was born with six legs. And every time she tried to race, her legs started jumping in all different directions. One leg jumped the right way. One leg jumped backwards. And one leg jumped straight into the ground. They all jumped wherever they wanted, and she never won the races. The end."
And I stopped there. I really did.
Then she said something that blew my brain open, "That's not the end. Keep going."
"What do you mean that's not the end?" I asked, curious.
"There's still more. You haven't got to the fixing part."
Could it be that my 3 year old has heard enough stories that she knows when a story is finished and when it isn't? Because she's right. I hadn't gotten to the fixing part.
I'd given her the Exposition: Isabelle is a 6-legged frog who loves to race.
I'd given her the Conflict: Her 6 legs never work together and she always loses the races.
All I'd done is set up the problem, and I totally left her hanging.
So I continued the story to the end, but the story isn't the point here. I got another gift of an insight into storytelling and plot through my daughter. What a fun way to teach plot: by telling incomplete stories and having the students react. I just might try that this year.
And for those of you wanting to know the rest of the story, here goes...
People told Isabelle to try harder, so she did. But every time, her legs jumped wherever they wanted. People laughed at her and called her names.
But deep in her heart, she knew she was a racer. Why else was she born with 6 legs?
So she asked her real friends if they had any ideas.
One friend said, "Stop trying to control the legs at all. Why don't you just race as fast as you can? With all those legs, you're bound to catch up to everyone."
So the next day, she tried it. But it didn't work. All she did is bump into trees and walls harder than before.
She asked another friend, who shrugged and suggested, "Why don't you have someone take off your extra four legs. All normal frogs just have two. If you want to win, you should be like everyone else."
Isabelle didn't like this idea. Somewhere inside, she felt that there was a reason she was born with 6 legs. The extra legs didn't make her weird...they made her special, right?
She went to bed that night without any good ideas, and sure enough, in her sleep she had a bad nightmare. So bad that she woke up falling out of bed with her pink sheets wrapped all around her legs. Well, not all of her legs. Just four of them. When she finally rose to her feet, the sheet didn't fall off.
And that was when the idea hit her. She knew just what to do.
The next day, to everyone's surprise, Isabelle showed up to the race. And people started laughing before the race even began.
"Why are you wearing a bed sheet?" one boy with big spots on his back yelled.
"What a weirdo!" another voice hollered.
Isabelle didn't let the words bother her. She knew she looked funny today. She was indeed wearing a bed sheet.
She lined up at the starting line with everybody else.
The frog with the racing gun yelled, "On your marks."
The other racing frogs laughed at her even harder. "You're really going to try, aren't you!"
The frog with the racing gun yelled, "Get set."
And Isabelle untied her bed sheet, revealing a strange pile of ropes and legs and feet up on her back. All the racers looked down the starting line at her, confused.
The frog with the racing gun yelled, "Go!"
Isabelle didn't wait for them to be unconfused. She started hop hop hopping. She hopped and hopped and hop hop hopped. The other racers started hopping too. All of them, even Isabelle, on 2 frog legs. The others started to catch up.
Isabelle could feel her other four legs trying to jump out of the ropes up on her back. She jumped even faster. She had to finish before they jumped loose.
She could see the finish line coming fast. Two frogs had passed her. Then she crossed her froggy tongue and reached up on her back for the end of the rope. Please please please work, she thought to herself. Her hope was, now that she was already jumping fast, that her other four legs would start helping instead of hopping wherever they wanted.
She pulled the rope. Her other 4 legs came loose. Her 6 feet touched the ground.
And just like she hoped, the other 4 legs started jumping WITH her 2 legs and all 6 legs were racing in the same direction. Well, in two shakes of a frog wart, she had passed the two frogs in the lead and crossed the finish line a few hops ahead of everyone.
Isabelle had won. She won the race, which made her feel good inside. And more importantly, she had stayed true to herself. She was the only frog with 6 legs, and that was something special.
The "Real" End