Three nights ago, Michael had asked for an extra bedtime story when she’d walked past his room. So Kate had leaned against thedoorway and started in on another one of her fantastic tales.
“Remember how you and Mom decided not to climb all the way up to the monastery ruins with me and Stephen this afternoon? Well, I guess you didn’t hear us scream when this rose up out of the ground and…” She’d talked on for several minutes, making up scary details about the prince as she went.
Saving the Griffin
When I start a new project, I don’t usually begin with an outline or character sketches the way some people do. Instead, I tend to write the opening scene or scenes up until the end of the character’s first day. That gives me a chance to get to know the people in my projects in a way similar to the way that the readers might. Then I begin work on the outlining and character sketches.
When Michael caught sight of a creature with wings and fur, in my first draft of the first chapter, it made sense to me that Kate would first dismiss the sighting and then tease him with stories about Italian monsters. I decided to develop that further with Michael having the tendency to more than halfway believe in the stories even when Kate told him they weren’t true after all.
So after essentially making a promise to the reader that Kate told believable tall tales, I needed to deliver the goods. Readers would have to believe that Michael really was frightened by what Kate came up with. In this case, the easiest thing for me to do was cheat.
Back in 1998, my family was driving back from a Reformation Retreat on the Rhine in Germany. We decided to stop in the Black Forest on the way home since our kids always had November 1st and 2nd off from school for the All Saint’s Day holidays. We found a little gasthaus in Staufen through the Rick Steves’ Germany, Switzerland and Austria guidebook. After dinner, our family took a hike up to the ruined castle that overlooked the town. Our five-year-old son didn’t feel like climbing all the way to the top, so he and his dad found a comfortable wall about halfway up.
That night the kids asked me to make up a story for them. I often did that on the fly. Sometimes I let them each pick a word. But it was right after Halloween, and I thought a spooky story would be fun, especially since the kids missed out on Trick-or Treating. So I looked at my son and said, “Remember how you and Dad didn’t climb all the way up to the castle ruins with the rest of us? Well, I’m surprised you didn’t hear us scream when…” The rest of the tale unfolded much as it did for Kate in SAVING THE GRIFFIN.
When I finished, my son looked absolutely horrified. I told him that it wasn’t true. The girls told him it wasn’t true. But I found out the next morning that he’d insisted on climbing into bed with his sisters that night just in case.