Belling the Cat
The Mice once called a meeting to decide on a plan to free themselves of their enemy, the Cat. At least they wished to find some way of knowing when she was coming, so they might have time to run away. Indeed, something had to be done, for they lived in such constant fear of her claws that they hardly dared stir from their dens by night or day.
Many plans were discussed, but none of them was thought good enough. At last a very young Mouse got up and said:
“I have a plan that seems very simple, but I know it will be successful. All we have to do is to hang a bell about the Cat’s neck. When we hear the bell ringing we will know immediately that our enemy is coming.”
All the Mice were much surprised that they had not thought of such a plan before. But in the midst of the rejoicing over their good fortune, an old Mouse arose and said:
“I will say that the plan of the young Mouse is very good. But let me ask one question: Who will bell the Cat?”
It is one thing to say that something should be done, but quite a different matter to do it.
The Birds, the Beasts and the Bat
The Birds and the Beasts declared war against each other. No compromise was possible, and so they went at it tooth and claw. It is said the quarrel grew out of the persecution the race of Geese suffered at the teeth of the Fox family. The Beasts, too, had cause for fight. The Eagle was constantly pouncing on the Hare, and the Owl dined daily on Mice.
It was a terrible battle. Many a Hare and many a Mouse died. Chickens and Geese fell by the score—and the victor always stopped for a feast.
Now the Bat family had not openly joined either side. They were a very politic race. So when they saw the Birds getting the better of it, they were Birds for all there was in it. But when the tide of battle turned, they immediately sided with the Beasts.
When the battle was over, the conduct of the Bats was discussed at the peace conference. Such deceit was unpardonable, and Birds and Beasts made common cause to drive out the Bats. And since then the Bat family hides in dark towers and deserted ruins, flying out only in the night.
The deceitful have no friends.
The Lion’s Share
A long time ago, the Lion, the Fox, the Jackal, and the Wolf agreed to go hunting together, sharing with each other whatever they found.
One day the Wolf ran down a Stag and immediately called his comrades to divide the spoil.
Without being asked, the Lion placed himself at the head of the feast to do the carving, and, with a great show of fairness, began to count the guests.
“One,” he said, counting on his claws, “that is myself the Lion. Two, that’s the Wolf, three, is the Jackal, and the Fox makes four.”
He then very carefully divided the Stag into four equal parts.
“I am King Lion,” he said, when he had finished, “so of course I get the first part. This next part falls to me because I am the strongest; and this is mine because I am the bravest.”
He now began to glare at the others very savagely. “If any of you have any claim to the part that is left,” he growled, stretching his claws meaningly, “now is the time to speak up.”
Might makes right.
The Wolf and the Shadow
A Wolf left his lair one evening in fine spirits and an excellent appetite. As he ran, the setting sun cast his shadow far out on the ground, and it looked as if the wolf were a hundred times bigger than he really was.
“Why,” exclaimed the Wolf proudly, “see how big I am! Fancy me running away from a puny Lion! I’ll show him who is fit to be king, he or I.”
Just then an immense shadow blotted him out entirely, and the next instant a Lion struck him down with a single blow.
Do not let your fancy make you forget realities.
The Wolf and the Crane
A Wolf had been feasting too greedily, and a bone had stuck crosswise in his throat. He could get it neither up nor down, and of course he could not eat a thing. Naturally that was an awful state of affairs for a greedy Wolf.
So away he hurried to the Crane. He was sure that she, with her long neck and bill, would easily be able to reach the bone and pull it out.
“I will reward you very handsomely,” said the Wolf, “if you pull that bone out for me.”
The Crane, as you can imagine, was very uneasy about putting her head in a Wolf’s throat. But she was grasping in nature, so she did what the Wolf asked her to do.
When the Wolf felt that the bone was gone, he started to walk away.
“But what about my reward!” called the Crane anxiously.
“What!” snarled the Wolf, whirling around. “Haven’t you got it? Isn’t it enough that I let you take your head out of my mouth without snapping it off?”
Expect no reward for serving the wicked.
The Wolf and the Crane
In every story you can find the same elements. They are what make a story, a story. Every story has a character. Every story takes place somewhere. Every story has something happen. Every story has a beginning and an end. We’re going to look at the pieces of a story because this year you’ll be writing stories, really good stories.
In the beginning of a story, we get the exposition which tells us where the story takes place, who the main character is and what the background is that we need to know in order to settle into the story.
The setting of a story gives us a location. It doesn’t have to list an address; that’s not what that means. The setting does tell us where and when the story takes place. A setting can be big, like the Sahara Desert, or the setting could be small, a bedroom.
There’s a main setting for the story like in England in the Middle Ages or in southern California in the present day. This is what we find out in the beginning of the story. The longer the story the more minor settings there will be: a kitchen, a forest, a beach, grandma’s house, a train, etc. Those are locations within the larger location where the story takes place.
Every story also has a main character. This character is who we are following in the story. We are wondering what’s going to happen to this character. We should care what happens to the character if it’s a good story. We should learn in the beginning of story a little about who this character is, what he or she is like, things like age and appearance but also how they act.
Just like there are main and minor settings, there are main and minor characters. The minor characters come alongside the main character and either help or hinder whatever the main character is trying to do.
Once a story has a setting and a character, it needs a plot; the plot is the action, the sequence of events that gets us from the beginning to the end. In the beginning of the story there’s an incident that sets off the story, gets it going. The main character needs a problem to solve. We call this the conflict. There must be conflict or there is no story. “I wanted to go to the park, so I went to the park.” That’s not a story! There needs to be drama! The incident in the beginning of the story starts the conflict by creating a question. Will he or won’t he? Will he find the treasure? Will she find her lost puppy? Will he get the part in the play? Will her team win the championship? Will he make new friends? Will she tell the truth?
The beginning of the story sets up the story and gets us to ask the big question. The end of the story is its resolution. It answers the question. We find out if they found what they were looking for and if everything turned out they way they had hoped. We like happy endings. We like having the question answered completely at the end of the story, especially when everything works out.
In between the beginning and the end, there needs to be a middle! That’s where the story creates drama and suspense. The main character needs to face setbacks, so we wonder if they really will get what they are after. Maybe it’s not going to work out! Very often there is a “bad guy” character in a story. This character will get the upper hand in the middle of the story to keep you in suspense about what’s going to happen.
Just before the resolution, the conflict comes to a climax. The climax is the exciting conclusion to the story. It’s the big game, the battle between the good guy and the bad guy, the audition, the confrontation. It all comes down to this moment. What’s it going to be? We’re about to find out how it ends. This is when suspense is at its highest! A good story will have you on the end of your seat waiting to see how it all turns out.
If you watch movies, look for these elements. The first fifteen minutes or so will be the exposition, setting up the story with the location, characters and back story. By twenty minutes the conflict has been introduced. What’s the big question that the conflict created? Then the plot thickens, as they say. Things go well for the main character and then the character has a setback. Again and again. About twenty minutes before the end, the climax will begin. The last few minutes is the resolution.
You will also be looking for these elements in the next book you’ll be reading.