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For the month of February, I've invited various authors with current releases to share something about their writing. Today, we hear from my brother, Henry Vogel, author of five books and an accomplished storyteller. I remember Henry telling stories on long car trips. The only one that
sticks with me had an eyeball rolling across the desert. To this day, I
cringe at the sand-in-the-eye feeling I got while listening to his
story. Please enjoy his post below and check out Henry's sites and children's book!
I’ve always enjoyed creating stories for children. I started when
I was a child, making up stories for my sisters during long car trips. I don’t
remember much about those stories, but I doubt they were any good. Fortunately,
I got better at it. When my son was born, I even got somewhat serious about it.
I remember laying (lying? I can never keep them straight) in bed
one night when my son was still an infant. I was tossing around
semi-traditional fairy tale ideas when the following exchange popped into my
“How would you win the love of the princess?” asked the king.
“If they aren’t too expensive, I’d be willing to buy one of the
raffle tickets,” replied the prince.
I liked that exchange so much, I created a story to go around it.
Thus was born “The King’s
Three Questions,” a story which came together in the matter of an hour or so.
By the time my son was three, I was making up bedtime stories
which featured him as the main character. We had “Brandt’s Adventure in
Dreamland,” “Brandt and the Great Broom Race,” “Brandt and the Space Pirates,”
and quite a few more I can’t remember.
Telling stories in which a child emerged
triumphant while competing against adults fired my imagination. But this time I
wondered about a child stepping into an adult position and thinking he
triumphed until reality taught him otherwise.
Unlike “The King’s Three
Questions,” I spent a lot of time thinking about this new story. I settled on
the idea of a ten-year-old prince stepping into the king’s shoes fairly
quickly but, originally, had the king die. Not only was that too depressing for
the tone I wanted, it meant the child became the king. There was no way the
adults around him would act as they do in the story if the boy was their king.
After lots of fiddling, I sent the king and queen off on a diplomatic mission.
Before leaving, the king tells the prince he’s in charge of the kingdom. The
king, of course, means that symbolically, but the prince takes it literally.
“I’m in Charge!” remains my favorite of my children’s stories and
is one of the most popular ones I tell during storytelling performances.
Early in my career as a storyteller, I developed a love for
noodlehead tales. While the term isn’t well known any more, kids (and most
adults) love the silly humor in the tales. “The Seven Silly Brothers” was one
of the earliest traditional tales I adapted for my act. It’s a silly tale about
a silly boy making a silly mistake when he counts his brothers. He expects
seven but, because he didn’t count himself, only gets six. In the original
story, the brothers all look for the “missing” brother. I didn’t think that was
quite silly enough, so added a twist which could only happen to a true
In my last post, Character Development: the Johari Window , I introduced the Johari Window as a tool for developing your characters. It's important that your character not know everything about their situation. These unknowns can lead to an intriguing story and create possibilities for conflict within the story. How do you use the Johari Window? In this post, I thought I'd provide a simple example of the Johari Window with a character most people know: Harry Potter. Below, I have filled out the Johari Window as it might appear within the first few pages of book 1, Harry Potter and The Sorceror's Stone . The Johari Window based on Harry Potter and The Sorceror's Stone Three of the quadrants in this window reveal what Harry doesn't know about who he truly is and what happened to his parents. I could add a lot to the quadrants representing what he doesn't know, but I hope this gives you an idea on how a Johari Window might be used. What do you d
When you write about character's of different races, how do you describe their skin tone? If you've never thought about this, then consider this question: How do the authors you read described persons of color? A few months ago, I attended a webinar about writing diverse characters. The guest was Eliana West of Writers for Diversity . The information she shared felt fresh and valuable, especially related to describing a character's skin tone. I get really tired of seeing African-descended characters described in terms of the goods that drove, and still drive the slave trade--coffee, chocolate, brown sugar. There's some weird psychosocial baggage attached to that. -- N. K. Jemisin As this quote from author, N. K . Jemisin , indicates, historically, writers have described people of color using food-related descriptors. Many people of color find this offensive. This surprised me, at first, but she has a point, especially when you view it through the quote above. My fir
The question stunned me. I had never looked at The Hunger Games as a threat to our society, so the email asking why I, as a Christian, could promote a movie/book where children kill children caught me off guard. My friend admitted, she had not read the books or seen the movie, so her opinion was based on plot information found online, but all I could think is that's not really what The Hunger Games is about. It does not glorify children killing children. Sure, there is the arena - which is a large wilderness - where twenty-four children are launched into the game of kill or be killed, but that's only looking at this story from the surface. Even so, I realized my friend gave me a rare opportunity. Rather than blast me, she told me her concerns and asked if I could explain why many Christians support and rave about this story. I thanked her and asked for a few days to gather my thoughts. I even re-read the first book in the series with her concern foremost in my mind.