When I was a little girl I favoured my own company, much as I do now. I would spend hours constructing elaborate stories in my head, also much as I do now. Only then I would act these tales out with my My Little Ponies, Sylvanian Families or Barbies, and now as an adult I write them down and pretend I’m a grown up by selling them as books.
I could play with anything, and I would always tell stories. My grandmother on my father’s side had a set of plastic farm animals and I would be left to play with them whilst she pottered about the house. And play I would, for as long as I was left. My grandmother on my mother’s side was less well equipped for the intrusion of children and when she wanted to have a nap I was simply left sitting in her living room. Whilst I am sure many children would cause havoc, raid the biscuit barrel and turn out the cupboards, I played with her pin cushion. She would sleep through the afternoon whilst I quietly acted out scenarios with the pins, distinguishing them by the different shapes and colours of the glass pin heads.
Stories have, for as long as I remember, been intrinsic to my identity. They shaped my life. I learned from the stories of others; decided my take on moral issues, learned about my sense of self identity, and worked through fears reading the words of others. I wrote them as soon as I was capable, tale after tale, pestering my mother to read yet another scribbled down story and tell me what she thought. I have a storyteller’s heart.
When we watched our children as tiny ones, we assumed that my step son Z would be the storyteller in the family. Whereas Miss Rose’s attention span is fairly small when it comes to films, Z will sit and watch a film in it’s entirety without moving. If we put on Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Z would pull up his little Batman chair, sit himself down, and stare in captivated silence. Miss Rose would amble about watching it half heartedly, then declare she was bored and seek alternative stimulation in the form of building blocks, colouring or cars. Z’s natural inclination towards fiction made us believe that if one of them were going to love stories, it would be him.
However, as they’ve grown something has happened. Miss Rose has started telling stories.
She tips out her box of My Little Ponies and begins. For ages she’ll sit on the floor chattering away to herself, using different voices, and tell tales of adventure and drama between the characters she’s created. When she gets the blocks out she builds houses and palaces, then begins acting out disagreements between who gets to live in which house. In the bath, which she has a collection of dinosaurs and plastic animals in, she will be happily occupied for two hours or more telling excited tales of adventures on the high sea. She is completely absorbed by creating stories, completely dedicated to what happens.
Whilst she won’t sit for an entire movie, she loves episodes of her favourite TV shows to be on in the background of her games. She absorbs story telling styles, learns about the characters and how they relate to one another, and then recreates unique tales of her own from what she’s taken on.
Watching her last night, lying on her tummy and playing out stories with her My Little Ponies whilst Z sat quietly and watched a Batman cartoon, I realised how much like me as a child she was. I never sat and watched a film without moving, I always had something on the go. Sometimes it was drawing, sometimes it was crafting, but often it was story telling myself. The films or TV shows were backgrounds to the tales I was telling myself, and now Miss Rose is doing the same thing.
I discounted her as having the storyteller’s heart because she is too busy to watch the stories of others. But that was foolish. The story’s of others interest her enough for inspiration and entertainment, but not enough to be the focus of her life. Telling her own stories, though, that will captivate her attention entirely.
How they love stories in their own unique, but equally dedicated way, is truly fascinating. Z can quote films to absolute perfection. He learns the songs and will perform them word perfectly. He likes any role play games with the toys to be completely accurate and true to the original. It is, I am told in fact, very similar to how his father was as a child. Miss Rose makes up her own versions of songs, uses stories as inspiration but not script, and goes off book whenever it suits her story. Both love stories, but, as ever, in completely different ways.
Will either follow us into the family business? Will we see new stories coming out in the Augmented Universe with Rose or Z in the author’s name space? Will Emily the Master Enchantress or Lilly Prospero one day meet one of their creations?
One thing’s for sure, if either does ever want to learn about writing stories they’ve got parents behind them who will show them the ropes with love and enthusiasm… we just have to try not to be obnoxiously pushy in that stage mum kinda way…
I’ve got to learn to say, “Yes darling, of course you can go into the sciences. That’s a fantastically stable option that should guarantee you a lifetime of job security.”
And not add on, “But your heart will yearn for a life you could have had. You will forever feel hollow for not creating new worlds to run through and explore. You will feel alone because you won’t have created the most fascinating friends you could ever hope to meet. And you will feel lost because you have not followed your heart down a path so full of amazement that you are surrounded each day with adventure and joy. Become a storyteller, my love, and learn to feel a happiness that you’ve never before known, and that you never possibly could if you don’t. Become a storyteller because it’s who you are. Become a storyteller because it’s in your heart.”
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!