And then what happened?
May 19, 2020 8:02 AM   Subscribe

I've started a nightly bedtime story with my 3yo about a knight going to a castle. Help me come up with new episodes for this story.

So far it is basic: knight rides a horse, gets to castle, tells guard why he's there, ties up his horse and goes upstairs to dance with the princess until it gets late, then they both say they are tired and it's time for bed. I don't want to make it too gender stereotype heavy. I also don't want to make it too violent since this is for bedtime. I'd rather it not be too long for each episode. I'd like to keep setting it up so he can collaborate - e.g. "and what color was the horse/castle? And what did the guard say when he knocked on the door?" Etc.

By the end of the day my brain is tired and without outside help this will end up being a bunch of tropes. Help me have fun with it!
posted by crunchy potato to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Where does the knight sleep? Does he want to sleep in a sleeping bag? Does he get his own room? Does the princess have a bunk bed?

The princess offers the night his choice of stuffed toys to sleep with. What stuffed animals does the knight choose? What are their names?

The next morning the knight offers to cook the princess breakfast. What do they eat?

After breakfast, the princess wants to meet the horse. Is the horse a girl or a boy? What is its name?

The princess then says she has to practice swordfighting. What color is her sword?
posted by Constance Mirabella at 8:14 AM on May 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

One approach for when you're stuck: Ask him what he thinks happened, and build on that. Or tell him to guess what happens next, and then you can say yes or no to his guesses to get the story to an interesting new point.

ETA: Alongside asking for plot input, you can also ask him how he thinks the characters are feeling at various points, and explore that.
posted by trig at 8:15 AM on May 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

A short one: the knight gets to the castle and someone tells him that they have lost a pie. Can he help them look for it? He looks in a bunch of places ("Where does he look next?") and finally finds it somewhere (for instance, in the garden, where the mice are having a tea party). The knight & the princess join in, and then get tired and go take a nap.

The knight gets to the castle and finds they are having a dog show (or a cat show, or hamster show, or anything your kid likes). The winner will get to be the official dog (or cat, or hamster) of the kingdom. The knight helps to judge. Depending on how long you want the story to be, there could be several competitions (for instance, a race, a cuteness competition, a high jump competition, etc.), or just one competition. There's something funny about one of the competitors, though. "It's time for the cuteness competition! The first puppy has soft white fur. The second puppy has short little legs and a waggly tail. But the third puppy has...purple scales?" Your kid can help judge each competition. At some point, it is discovered that one of the competitors is a baby dragon who just wants to be part of the kingdom. Your kid can decide who gets a prize, who gets to be winner, who gets to hang out for the celebration dinner.
posted by ourobouros at 8:22 AM on May 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

The knight needs an obnoxious/dumb squire sidekick for comic relief (or to be the straight man if the knight is zany)

Definitely the knight has to go to banquets, you can describe food endlessly

The princess should have a cool hobby, like dragon training or archery or local fief politics, and has to have her own storyline the knight can support

There are baddies in this universe, maybe pirates? an evil sorcerer? a mean knight?
posted by phunniemee at 8:37 AM on May 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

I did a version of this and the innocent practical jokes they played on each other along with a farmer were the most popular. Kid appreciated funny more than realistic, ymmv.

Example: person 1 convinces farmer to shave his sheep and call them llamas in front of person 2.
posted by typecloud at 8:42 AM on May 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

I told similar bedtime stories. Steal from the greats. The Prince pulled a thorn from a bear's paw; the bear became a protective friend (Aesop).
Our characters were based on the stuffed animals in bed. We had a dragon and a flashlight. The Prince and the dragon flew to the moon, but the dragon was too tired to fly back home, so the Prince turned on the flashlight and they slid home on the beam. I'm very proud of this one.
When the Price arrived safely home, the Queen might be unaware that he had sneaked out and had an adventure, or might gently chastise him for breaking the rules but still hug him. (kind of stolen from Wild Things)
The Prince showed honor, courage and kindness and the story teller occasionally responded to events from the Prince's life, shamelessly moralizing. The Price never caught on.
posted by theora55 at 9:21 AM on May 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Could the knight visit a different part of the castle each day, do something location-appropriate, and then get tired and go to bed at the end of a hard work day? That could give you a framework for the story so you don't have to come up with something fresh each time. Adding a silly dog sidekick could be really fun - maybe they keep ruining the knight's hard work, or maybe they are helpful?

- Knight goes to the scullery, meets the cook, learns how to bake a pie, but then the dog eats it while it's cooling
- Knight goes to the armory, polishes his armor and shield, doggie gets its head stuck in the helmet
- Knight goes to the stables, meets all the horses and the grooms, doggie chases all the horses out of the stables to play, so the knight has to find them all and bring them back in
- Knight goes to the wash house, washes his clothes and hangs them up on the line, but doggie rolls around with the wet clothes in the mud, so he has to wash them again
- Knight goes to the library and reads doggie his favourite book (too meta?). The doggie then reads back to the knight, but of course it's all "Woof woof woof, woof..."
posted by tinydancer at 9:23 AM on May 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

The chickens got out and the knight and the princess need to find them and get them home!

A dragon comes over for a play date and they all do finger paints and then have a picnic.

The knight goes out for a walk and meets a lion who has a thorn stuck in his paw.

Feel free to mine fairy tale stories and television episodes. In my experience your kid will not mind and may enjoy it.
posted by ewok_academy at 9:24 AM on May 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

The castle could turn out to have some interesting inhabitants and features.

The knight is woken up by a loud sound in the middle of the night. The princess says, "Oh, I forgot to mention the friendly dragon (or ghost or bear) that lives here.

The knight's shoes are missing in the morning. The princess says, "Sometimes the elves steal things. Let's go find them and trade them some candy for your shoes."

The knight is startled to see something big moving around in the moat. The princess says, "Oh, that's the giant water monster. She's friendly. Mostly."

The knight wanders around and finds a room full of treasure or a magic picture that speaks to him or a magic mirror where he sees his future self. Or a room that's always locked and he keeps trying to find out what's in there.

The knight and the princess go walking in the woods by the castle and see unicorns. The princess asks, "Would you like to ride one?"
posted by Redstart at 9:44 AM on May 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Later, they found a magic fish. In a tree.
posted by Rash at 9:45 AM on May 19, 2020

The Knight is asked to adjudicate various contests or displays in the castle.

Eg a version of the Solomon story: the king is an amazing artist. He paints food that nobody can distinguish from the real thing. When it's lunchtime, the king invites the knight to his studio, shows him his wonderful gallery of work (you describe these in detail: sculptures of hamburgers, milkshakes, macaroni, whatever your kid likes) and says "if you can spot the real food, you can have a wonderful lunch! but if you get it wrong, you have to eat the thing you thought was real!" The knight is worried, the art is so realistic he can't tell. But then, because the knight is a man who pays attention to small creatures, he spots a trail of ants on the floor going to one of the displays, and realizes it means that the ants aren't fooled by fakes. He gets it right and enjoys a marvelous banquet, and of course the king wasn't really going to make him eat the art, he was just so excited that a stranger was going to see his work.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:48 AM on May 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

On not wanting to make it too gender stereotype heavy:
1. Make the knight get into some dangerous trouble and the princess gallantly saves him (I'm picturing her swinging into the great hall of the castle on a rope, Tarzan style, with a very sharp sword right before the knight gets captured). Afterward, the knight asks the princess to teach him how to fight. During the lesson, she kisses him and they start to fall in love.
2. Make the next guard encountered a woman
3. Make the knight have to go get some sort of secret potion from a haggard, disgusting old man in a cottage in the woods. (gender reversal of the witch stereotype)
4. Make a fierce smelly scary old troll that lives under a bridge female
5. Make the wise and patient Queen who rules over a huge kingdom an important plotline
6. Make the knight scared, emotional, vulnerable, tender, empathic, caring, and nurturing. Have him sing, and make art, and garden, and care for children, and cook.

Ideas unrelated to gender:
1. Most kids LOVE intricate details. Tell all the crazy details of the plentiful weird foods at a feast. Frog eyeballs sauteed with dandelion greens. Blueberries preserved in painted eggshells. etc. etc. Go deep into detail on clothing, tools, supplies, what's in the bag, what's being packed on the horses, what's in the cellar that they stumble into, etc.
2. Create a quest with 3 parts that has to be completed. Each of the 3 tasks can take a week of stories. There can be ridiculous subquests under each of the 3, assigned by characters and treasure maps and messages in bottles that you encounter. Keep it always goal oriented. The kid will love remembering the primary quest/3 parts and steering you back to that goal.
posted by amaire at 10:43 AM on May 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

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