Oreos and stories
When my daughter, who's now an adult, was little, I read a bedtime story to her every night without fail. It became our routine, a dad and daughter tradition. Sometimes I read one of her books to her; sometimes I made up a story. She wouldn't let me forget about her bedtime story, even on those occasional nights when I wanted to forget.
If I'd had a hard day at the office, working late, toss in a sinus and migraine headache, and once in a while that additional five or ten minutes to read a bedtime story felt like a burden. But she wouldn't let me out of it that easily.
One of those nights, when she was four-years old, I decided to make up a story for her. A short one so I could go get some ibuprofen and lie down.
"Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after. Goodnight, sweetheart."
"Daddy, that's not a story."
"Sure it is. It has a beginning and an end. Now go to sleep. Daddy's tired."
The next night, before bedtime and story time, my daughter and I sat at the kitchen table for a snack of Oreo cookies and milk. I'm eating my cookies like a normal human being should eat an Oreo. I take a bite. My daughter twists hers apart, scrapes off the white creamy filling with her front teeth, and then sets the two bare chocolate cookies on her plate. She picks up her second Oreo and proceeds to twist it apart.
"What are you doing?" I scolded.
"I like the white part best."
"You can't just eat the filling and throw the cookies away. That's wasteful."
"You can eat my cookie parts then. I only want the middle."
"I don't want those cookies. You ate the best part. They're not as good with no middle."
"Kind of like your story, huh, Daddy?"
And so my four-year-old daughter gave me a great lesson in writing. I might have an intriguing, engaging, compelling beginning to my novel-in-progress, and a fantastic, surprising, climactic ending. But the middle needs to be the best part, the part that holds it all together and satisfies readers so they want to keep reading. If not, then I don't have a story.
Or a cookie.