What Don Freeman Taught Me About Story

In cleaning out the garage this month I found my copy of Corduroy by Don Freeman, published in 1968 it tells the story of Corduroy the bear and his adventure in a department store before he is bought by a young girl, Lisa. It was my favorite book when I was younger and reading it again I see why.

A great story begins with a unique character yes Corduroy is an ordinary teddy bear dressed in green corduroy overalls but what makes him unique is he is missing a button which presents a problem. A missing button means he is not complete, his strap falls down and no one will buy him…until…enter Lisa.

In introducing Lisa, the secondary character we now have a story. Lisa also has a problem, she wants to buy Corduroy but she doesn’t have the money. Lisa’s mother, the third character is used to move the story forward with dialogue by saying “he is missing a button”. When Corduroy hears this his response is “a button I’ve always wanted a button” and sets off on an adventure at night in the department store (introduction of new descriptive setting to find the missing button).He didn’t know he had a problem until another character pointed it out to him.

Corduroy’s attempt to find the button by pulling it off a mattress results in him making so much noise that the night watchman finds him and sets him back in the toy department. Give your character an obstacle and don’t let him succeed right away.

Just when Corduroy gives up bring Lisa in again to help him out. She solved her problem by saving money and purchasing the bear she solves Corduroy’s problem by sewing on his button. Enter the perfect ending. Corduroy is complete and Lisa is his friend. “I’ve always wanted a friend” says Corduroy as Lisa hugs Corduroy.
A simple story but full of great lessons on how to move your story forward. Now get back to work!

The Writing Nag

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