The Red Pen of Doom

Conventional wisdom about writing is conventionally wrong.

Storytelling secrets from a 4-year-old boy pretending to be Batman

There’s a funny little post on reddit that actually gives us (1) a nice laugh and (2) a great little lesson in writing.

Here’s the story:

At the grocery store he’s running around doing superhero moves with a fierce expression and making kind of a spectacle of himself. A lady says, “Hello, young man, what’s your name?”

In a little kids’ version of a growly voice, he says “I’m Batman.”

The lady laughs. “I mean, what’s your real name?”

Again: “I’m BATMAN!”

“No, what’s your actual real name?”

(long pause)

“Bruce Wayne.”

As a father and a fan of Batman, I love this.

As a writer, I see a story in 66 words. How many words could you kill without hurting the story? Not many.

Everything has a purpose.

If you read this silly blog, you know about setups and payoffs, which are essential tools for writers of all sorts, whether you’re a blogger, a journalist, a speechwriter or a novelist finishing a 242,000-word epic about elves with lightsabers riding dragons. (Sidenote: I keep waiting for somebody to actually write this Jedi elf saga as a parody, or send me a link to the actual books, because THEY MUST EXIST.)

This little story has multiple setups that all pay off with the last line. It’s beautifully done and the laugh comes not just from the surprise, but from all those careful setups.

Bonus Video: little kid instructs adult in proper Batman voice

Bonus Photo: The many moods of Batman

the many moods of batman


This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

About Guy Bergstrom

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot.

11 comments on “Storytelling secrets from a 4-year-old boy pretending to be Batman

  1. Pingback: A little story for a Friday

  2. ej runyon
    February 26, 2013

    I challenge anyone to write 55 words on ‘A Trekkie Finds Love’. Humm. I may blog on that myself…


  3. Marc Ferris (@Axxman300)
    February 23, 2013

    My little brother’s name is Robin. I’m Batman by default.


  4. Calen Spindler
    August 16, 2012

    Best. Post. Ever. Learned a little about writing, got my geek on and saw a three year old beat the shit out of his uncle. This is a good day, ‘tater.


  5. Lorijo Metz
    August 16, 2012

    Love it! Brings back memories of my son (now 23) who insisted that he was Peter Pan, I was Wendy, his sister was Tinker Bell and his dad was Captain Hook. (That’s right, Wendy married Captain Hook.) Anyways, this went on for so long, I finally made us all costumes and we had our family portrait taken in them. To this day, it’s my favorite family portrait. 🙂


  6. lindseyjparsons
    August 15, 2012

    Yes, can definitely see a batman trend starting!!! Love it!! 😀


    • Guy
      August 15, 2012

      There will be more. I am not done with the Batman.


  7. juliabarrett
    August 15, 2012

    I love this. I love this child. I love Batman emos. Thanks.


  8. Liesel Hill
    August 15, 2012

    See, this is why I write stories. It’s so great to see a kid get so into a fantastical world. It makes him feel strong, powerful, in control of his own life. (And, though he’d probably get his mouth washed out with soap for saying it, like a badass.) This is what true entertainment/escapism is supposed to do: make us feel better and more in control of our real lives. Way funny post!


  9. Jon Rieley-Goddard
    August 15, 2012

    Reminds me of a story that Eric Berne (Transactional Analysis social game theory) tells about a little boy in a cowboy get-up who gets a Hey there, Cowboy greeting and says, I’m not a cowboy, mister, I just play one sometimes.


  10. J.D. Gallagher
    August 15, 2012

    Great post. Love those really short stories you can read in sixty seconds or less. They remind you of everything that is great about writing.


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This entry was posted on August 15, 2012 by in 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday and tagged , , , , , , , .
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