“Tell me a story.”
The first time my daughter asked me…
I had nothing.
I had looked forward to this moment for months, had daydreamed the whole scene, could see holding her spellbound, not just with a great story, but a meaningful one, too, filled with subtle lessons that she would one day tell her children.
What I hadn’t done was prepare a story to tell her.
I figured I had more time. She was still so young. And the pre-packaged, ready-made books seemed to please her.
Plus, it felt so cold and calculating.
I figured the story you tell your child ought to spring from your heart, pure and spontaneous.
She waited, stared at me with her big green eyes.
My mind was a total blank.
“Once upon a time, a mermaid lived named Ariel under the sea…”
She cut me off faster than a city desk editor.
“A new one,” she said, with a little more heat than you’d expect from a four year-old.
Which is how, after many failed attempts, I ended up telling my daughter the story of the three men who robbed the East-West bank in the City of Alhambra, and the brave policeman who arrested them.
It was the best I could come up with, the fact pattern of an old case I had tried a few years earlier.
The best way to prepare to tell a story is to prepare the story you plan to tell.
Always, no matter the circumstance, no matter the audience, think of the story you might be asked to tell before you tell it. Off-the-cuff and spontaneous is never a good idea. Not even with family.
Storytelling without preparation is courting disaster.
For years afterward, usually in public places, my daughter would ask for the bank robbery story.
The looks people gave me were never good.