I’ve basically always been a story teller. When I was young, like a lot of little kids I would recite entire episodes of something I’d watched on TV to my parents. I’m sure they were just pandering to me me, but they seemed to enjoy it. Or at least they pretended to, like I do when my son rambles about what he saw sometimes.
I also played with my toys in a way that told stories. Often I imagined I was making some kind of TV show, and my toys were the actors. Another thing I saw replicated by my son and his “pretend movies”.
When I was a bit older, maybe early tweens, I became known among my friends for sharing stories that had happened in my life. Stories about things I or people I had known experienced. I had a story to relate to most any situation. And for the most part people seemed into it.
It was also around this time, maybe a little earlier, that I started thinking of scenes for stories. They weren’t complete stories, just scenes or elements that I thought were cool. I tried to tell people about them, but usually they looked at me like I was strange. So I started lying and saying they were scenes I had watched from a title I couldn’t remember. People generally reacted a lot more positively to that, and sometimes wanted to watch the made up show or movie.
That’s when I realized some people don’t value creativity. It’s ok to regurgitate something you saw, much like a small child, but coming up with something original…well that’s just weird.
I had also always liked making movies whenever I had access to a camera, and in 8th grade I took my first film class. It had an impact on me and caused me to start making movies with friends and taking more film related classes in high school.
Also, in senior year I started a comic book with my friend Alex. Black Snow. Maybe you’ve heard of it.
Since then I’ve been drawing comics off and on for the past fourteen years. (Boy, that makes me feel old.) I also continued my film education in college and got my BA in Film Studies at UC Berkeley. I wasn’t ready to move down to Hollywood, so I got a job for a local production company and learned all about the world of corporate video. Then my job ended during the peak of the recession and I started working at my family’s internet marking company.
When my son was about two I started telling him bedtime stories. At first I was just telling him some of the classic fairy tales. This led to manipulating the fairy tales in fun ways. I remember a streak of something like thirty nights in a row were it would be a new variation of the Three Little Pigs. Sometimes minor changes to the tale, but more often things that fundamentally changed the story. It was like a story writing exercise or workshop or something. My son liked it and I had fun seeing what I could come up with.
Eventually this led to me completely making up stories. New settings and characters each night. If one really was a hit with my son I’d tell him a followup the next night. Until I hit on the story that he loved and became an ongoing bedtime adventure on and off for about two and a half years now.
I love the old west and the paranormal, and when I told my son about Sheriff Wild Bill taking on the zombie James brothers to protect the town of Durango he fell in love too. Now the story has expanded to hundreds of adventures where Wild Bill and his bumbling Deputy have defeated all manner of monster and paranormal beast.
I’ve told prequels, built up a town of characters, had overarching stories that led up to epic battles with the forces of evil, injecting absurd comedy bits, played with the idea of different points of view, told morality tales, and created a fairly rich universe.
Wild Bill and his supporting cast have been a vehicle for pretty much anything I could think of. And of course my son wants something new every night!
Sometimes this can become a taxing chore, and I’ll take a break. And of course I have to cater them to my son. Sometimes he has to pick the monster, or I have to include a pop culture character like the Ninja Turtles. And usually I have to include some humor, like the constantly maligned Mr. Big Ed who happens to be very sensitive about his big head and is very quick tempered.
The few people who know about this always tell me I should write the Wild Bill stories down. Document this grandiose narrative for the ages. I guess that is somewhat tempting, but I really don’t want to change my intent since this is an ongoing activity. I don’t want to profit off a special bonding experience with my son. I tell the stories to entertain him, and I try to entertain myself.
And it can be very gratifying. I don’t have to worry about impressing anyone but him. There are no critics to find fault in my stories. There are no goals of fame or fortune where I try to figure out how to please everyone. I don’t have to worry about the legality of including Spongebob or the Ghostbusters in a story. I don’t have to take the time to draw anything, or even write anything. I just say something and it becomes fully realized in our minds.
So it’s probably something I’ll keep doing for as long as my son wants to keep listening, and maybe I’ll start a similar tradition with my daughter now that she is two and understands a lot of what I’m saying. Maybe one day I’ll sell out and write a vastly overrated book version like Harry Potter, or make a crappy movie version like Lady in the Water. But for now I’m simply content to have something special I can share with my son.
I have Black Snow and my other comics to tell stories to the public.