Where do stories come from? It’s an interesting question and one which I understand was put by a four-year old. I expect there are many glib answers, but a four-year old doesn’t do glib, so it takes your breath away for a moment. Kimberley Packard of http://kimberlypackard.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/mommy-where-do-stories-come-from/#more-753 and the mother of the child in question, was going to tackle this the only way she knew how – with honesty. It was not going to be easy, in fact she compared it unfavourably with explaining the birds and the bees, and that’s saying something.
I may have mentioned before that a four-year old once asked me what made thunder. I am no scientist, but in the interests of honesty, I did my best to explain the theories of static electricity discharging. I did a rubbish job, because he stared at me with disbelief and went off to Playgroup, no wiser. All was revealed when he returned home. “You have that thunder-thing wrong,” he said. “Gregory’s mum says there’s a man up there with a big drum.” Now why didn’t I think of that?
So, explaining to children aside, where do stories come from? The answer is from all over the place. The juxtaposition of two ideas, an accident just avoided, a chance remark, a conversation overheard in a restaurant, all these and more provide the spark for a story. Beatrix Potter was inspired by wildlife. All her little creatures existed in the real world, but were translated, anthropomorphised I suppose, into storybook people with real lives. I went to the Beatrix Potter Attraction in Windermere earlier in the year. It’s a little Disney-like. Her world of stories translated into tableaux. I expect a lot of people would hate its sugary sweetness, but I went with a seven-year old, who was entranced. She left with a renewed love of the stories she had heard, determined now to read them for herself. To watch her fall in love all over again with Peter Rabbit was nothing short of magical.
Kimberley Packard says “All it takes is one thought to trigger that story to fall into our heads, like a falling star getting caught by our gravitational pull.” I like that image of a falling star, but even more I love the idea that she wrote in a comment to me “Maybe they are like apples. The ripe ones fall from the trees, but the stories that haven’t ripened yet hang on for a little while longer.”
Is that it? Are stories hanging around in the air, waiting for us to be receptive enough to listen? Where do stories come from?