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Library of morals

The animals, objects and plants that teach us how to think…



How can generated short story workshops be used as a method to express and deal with an issue?

Structure and Design

Folded hidden pages.png

My idea is to structure the thesis in the same way I structure the books for generative story workshops. You will at first only read a short sentence that is supposed to state something about the chapter but all the content and context is hidden inside the pages, such as this. It's about slowly revealing the story and playing with the idea that little can say a lot and the hidden messages behind words.

So the chapters are based on the story structure of who, where, what, why and how. I want to be playful with the sentences that are shown before you rip the pages open and see their context. My idea is really to have this short story with a thesis hidden inside of it.


500 words
~Context and introduction of how I came up with the generative workshops


1000 words
~Setting a historical overview (Fable — Wikipédia, 2021), (Besson, n.d.)
~An intro in types of short stories, from fables to children’s books to social media one liners (instagram, news headline, clickbait)


1000 words
~The characters, shapes and objects of my childhood
~Talking animals, plants and shapes that educate (Brinkman, 2020)
~Them shaping our morals and ways of behaving within society (Brinkman, 2020)
~who is the audience


1000 words
~From classrooms to reading to children at bedtime to social media(where the imagination is)
~Where we learn imagination (Lucas, Bridgers, Griffiths and Gopnik, 2014), (Inovation Hub, 2015)
~the short attention span generation
~setting of the workshop: taking people back to the where (to trigger children's imagination taking us back to the classroom and bedtime stories)


1000 words
~types of workshops that have been done i.e, Serious Play(Wheeler, Passmore and Gold, 2020)
~about my workshop
~the method


1000 words
~Why do we relate to them (characters and objects)
~The psychology behind us feeling empathy for imaginary characters (researching resources)
~why do we bring things that don't talk to life
~why these workshops can be a form of therapy


1000 words
~How little can say a lot
~the hidden messages (Farokhi and Hashemi, 2011)
~Children's drawing psychology (Quaglia, 2015)


500 words
~how these workshop can help with triggering creativity and new ways of thinking (Surrealist automatism - Wikipedia, 2021), (Wheeler, Passmore and Gold, 2020)


1.Besson, A., n.d. De l’aristocratie aux cours d’école, une brève histoire du conte | Fantasy - BnF. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21 November 2021].
(Besson, n.d.)
2. Blair, S., Rillo, M. and Dröge, J., 2020. Serious Work How to facilitate meetings and workshops using the LEGO® Serious Play® method. 3rd ed.
(Blair, Rillo and Dröge, 2020)
3. Brinkman, G., 2020. TOTO TO TOTORO Can talking animals save the world?. Masters. The Royal Academy of Arts The Hague.
(Brinkman, 2020)
4. Di Leo, J., 2013. Interpreting Children's Drawings. Routledge.
(Di Leo, 2013) 2021. Fable — Wikipédia. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 November 2021].
(Fable — Wikipédia, 2021)
6. Farokhi, M. and Hashemi, M., 2011. The Analysis of Children's Drawings: Social, Emotional, Physical, and Psychological aspects. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, pp.2219-2224.
(Farokhi and Hashemi, 2011)
7. Inovation Hub, 2015. Kids say the smartest things. [podcast] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 November 2021].
(Inovation Hub, 2015)
8. Lucas, C., Bridgers, S., Griffiths, T. and Gopnik, A., 2014. When children are better (or at least more open-minded) learners than adults: Developmental differences in learning the forms of causal relationships. Cognition, 131(2), pp.284-299.
(Lucas, Bridgers, Griffiths and Gopnik, 2014)
9. Quaglia, R., 2015. THE USE OF DRAWING IN PSYCHOTHERAPY. International Journal of Developmental and Educational Psychology, 1(1), pp.465-472.
(Quaglia, 2015)
10. 2021. Surrealist automatism - Wikipedia. [Accessed 17 November 2021].
(Surrealist automatism - Wikipedia, 2021)
11. Wheeler, S., Passmore, J. and Gold, R., 2020. All to play for: LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® and its impact on team cohesion, collaboration and psychological safety in organisational settings using a coaching approach. Journal of Work-Applied Management, 12(2), pp.141-157.
(Wheeler, Passmore and Gold, 2020)

Text so far

The books of Mr. Men and Little Miss are the short stories that impacted my view of children’s books. I will always remember their simple square shape with a white glossy hard cover and a simple colourful drawing of the character and their name as the title. Mr. Happy, Little Miss Trouble, Little Miss Whoops, Mr. Grumpy, Mr. Clumsy… They stood out from other children’s books of my childhood. They were simple and clear. Other children’s book covers were filled with colour not allowing blank and unused space. They’re mixed in my memories and leave only the impression of colour as they overwhelmingly tried to get my attention and stand out in their similarities. Mr. Men and Little Miss however stay clear and I can always remember what the cover looked like and how the book felt in my hands. They were books with a specific character that had it’s own trait and would have a simple moral. Mr. Happy helped Mr. Miserable find happiness. Little Miss Trouble learns that the misery of others is no laughing matter. Small morals which are sometimes funny and sometimes meaningful.

That was where this started. And it only kept going from there. I started my own short one liner stories called “Tiny’s Adventures”, where Tiny a yellow heart character takes on daily life. At the time these came about I was struggling like many others with the restrictions of the pandemic. Being stuck inside and only seeing people digitally made my anxiety worse and I was looking for an output. So I gave life to Tiny. A character that brought me happiness and made me smile. Tiny would make everything sound light no matter how simple or heavy the topic was. Tiny was relatable. And so in a way Tiny was created to appease my anxiety. The inspiration behind Tiny was clear to me. I wanted to play with the construct of a children’s story book. From the simple white book with an illustration to the short moral. The important element in “Tiny’s adventure” is the simplicity. It was about having a one line story and one illustration, that’s it. It’s to the point one look and you’ve read it. It plays with short attention span because that’s something that everyone behind the screen struggled with these past years. I wanted to be able to give something quickly and allow for the rest of the story to be up to the reader. One line can say a lot. One illustration can say a lot. I felt that would be the strength of Tiny’s Adventures. I didn’t need nor want much to convey a lot.

As I grew older I also became more fascinated by fables that I had dismissed as a child. I remembered how the animals would talk and have problems like humans. I also found it interesting that they were written with complex language and yet addressed to children. The adult perspective and input really influenced the construct of fables. Adults knew talking animals would appeal to children. Thus by using something that children would be attracted to and listen to, adults aimed to share their perspective of how to behave in society. Children grow up listening to the way of life from adults. They are taught the reality of life through imaginary stories.

I often think about when a child’s imagination starts and when it stops. It most likely is determined by the age of the child. It could start before the child can even speak, it can spark from the environment the child is in. And it could possibly stop when a child reaches an age where it is no longer perceived as a child by society. This age is probably in the child’s teenage years. However I believe a child’s imagination is only buried inside us at a certain age so that we can be perceived as adults. We all had a child’s imagination at some point in our life. Some keep it visible longer than others. I believe there’s a child’s imagination in all of us that’s craving for attention. An imagination that won’t be stopped by overthinking and just wants to get out. That’s when some of the most beautiful stories come to life. Whether they make sense or not.

And from all these puzzle pieces my short story workshops emerged.

I have developed generative short story workshops as methods to "solve" problems. "Solve" in quotation because the aim of the workshops is not to realistically solve problems but rather to have a creative take on the problems. The idea is also to solve them by triggered children's imagination which gives shape to the unimaginable. The method aims to trigger quick responses trying to escape the adult way of overthinking and analyzing. And so this can let through the child imagination that is always in you. This method aims to be therapeutic. With a set topic and a set structure the participants are taken on a story making journey to solve and express the topic given to them. The workshop opens conversations as the participants are invited to discuss the story they created to solve their given problem. It aims to create a playful way to tackle serious topics. It also aims to opens minds and create a new perspective of problem solving.

The structure of generating a story was something that felt very important in order for these workshops to work. One cannot simply give a participant a blank page of paper and tell them to write a story and expect results. The structure had to invite the participant and make them feel like they had creative control but still felt guided. The balance between guiding and creative input was very important because if the viewer felt the story was already written for them they would feel the story was not theirs. And on the other hand if the structure was to empty the participant might feel more pressure to be creative. Thus the structure guided the participant with the inspiration from the six W’s which are commonly used in research such as journalism in order to get a full well rounded story. ( The structure I developed is as follows:


TITLE, Pick two characters
INTRO, How will your story start?
WHO, Who are the characters?
WHERE, Where are they?
WHAT, What objects do they have?
WHY, Why do they have this/Why are they here?
HOW, How do they feel?
END, How will it end?

And that’s the structure the stories are based on which will allow the participants to create their own unique generated story.

An example of what the blank story would be using this structure would be as follows:

A … and a …

On a …
Appeared a … and a …
They found themselves in a …
They brought with them a …
They were there to …
Hoping to …
And so …

The structure is filled in one line at a time not knowing what the next line will be until your turn your page (or slide). The idea is that what you are filling out in the story should not be picked by knowing the full structure as that would influence the outcome and randomness of the story. This randomness aims to portray the way a child comes up with a story. Another important point is that the participants are not given too much time to fill in the blanks. This is to allow for quick thinking. This quick thinking in my opinion stops the adult and teenage way of overthinking and allows for a more pure and child-like imagination. The whole structure and quick thinking also plays on the idea of thinking outside the box. If you just ask someone to think outside the box will they? Probably not. They’ll overthink the box and rarely escape it. But if you give them a set structure and give them 1 minute to think of for example two characters that come to their mind then, bam! Quick thoughts which could trigger a whole story that is completely outside the box.

My creative story-making method is adaptable to different audiences and in turn can help express and deal with relevant topics for these audiences. The development of this workshop is strongly inspired by the structure and methods used in children’s stories and fables to teach morals and ways of behaving, as well as social media platforms that try to quickly convey information concisely and in short amounts of time. It gives short sentences in combination with illustration space to speak and convey more than what is simply written. It thus also accommodates to visual thinkers and gives space for again more imagination. The method really aims to take steps in surprising the participant with their own triggered imagination. It is not the aim that the participant fully knows what they are writing in terms of structure and also that they will be illustrating. Of course some can assume but still the quick thinking moment where the imagination is triggered will not be lost.

What became also important after trying out the structure was how to incorporate topics that fit the target audience but also adapt a topic depending on the given audience. Incorporating a topic and allowing for the participant to solve it within such a short structure was complex. It was again about finding a balance between guiding the participant and their creative input. The topic of housing problems in the Netherlands was the first tackled. The workshop on this topic was set in Mediamatic as part of an exhibition organized by the Sandberg master students of Disarming Design. This project became a collaboration between Jara a close friend and me. Jara has a background in giving problem solving methods workshops to children and she was the best help to take my workshops further. She previously designed a workshop that was about How to cross the Palestinian Wall. The workshop focused on using random objects in innovative ways to cross the wall. It combined both text and illustration as a form to solve the problem.

We then combined both our creativity to come up with our workshop. We figured out early on that it would be about how to solve the housing system in the Netherlands because at the time there were ongoing protests. We then simply started by figuring out the variables for people to fill in:

Intro example: On a rainy day
Character example: International student
Type of housing: Room
Location example: Amsterdam
Problem example: Living cost
Objects example: toad, sunglasses

And created a random solution:

Turns out, toad has a talent for looking cool.
The International student goes out in the city and places the toad with his cool sunglasses next to the Dam square. The toad attracts people and so the student makes lots of money to afford renting a room.

We then tried out the story in a simple structure much like my previous workshop:

On a rainy day
An international student was searching for accommodation
The room had to be located in Amsterdam
The international student couldn’t afford the living costs
They find a toad and a pair of sunglasses on their way
The toad and the pair of sunglasses can help them afford a room
Turns out, toad has a talent for looking cool.
The International student goes out in the city and places the toad with his cool sunglasses next to the Dam square.
The toad attracts people and so the student makes lots of money to afford renting a room.

And finally we had the final structure with blanks to be filled in by the participants:

a (thing) and a (thing) saved the day

On a (intro)
Appeared a (character) who was searching for an accommodation.
The (housing) had to be located in (city)
They had brought with them a (thing) and a (thing)
But the (character) couldn't (variable situation)
The (thing) and (thing) could help the (character)
It turns out the (thing) could (do something)
So the (character) used that to (do something)
The (character) could then (solve the variable)
And so (ending)

variable situations: couldn't afford rent, found GIRLS only, found DUTCH only, found ages 23+ only

So as you can see the workshops use a varied format adapting to the situation with a set story structure that contains elements to be filled in by the participants. For each workshop the fill in story is changed to adapt to the topic of the workshop. The workshop given to younger participants will change and adapt to the age. After the story is filled in the participants are asked to illustrate their stories.

Being French I grew up with contes and fables which were meant to be sweet and targeted at children but I was also introduced to a book which had old contes with stories which were more original to what contes originally were. The French written literature called Contes which were originally destined to be read by adults and the wealthy emerged in 1697. (Besson, n.d) This book that my mother read to us had stories which were harder to understand as a child because some of them addressed adults. The book my mother read from is called “L’oiseau d’or” and was published by Flammarion in 1970. It contains a variety of stories from authors such as the Grimm Brothers, Edouard Laboulaye, Rene Jacquenet and more. The book had two sections “contes d’hier” meaning fairy tales of yesterday and “d’aujourd’hui” meaning of today. It shows a clear switch in the audience of fairy tales, you can tell by reading a story from each section how fairy tales were originally written for adults. The target audience of contes was not always children as many know. These short stories that brought morals through sometimes terrifying and fantastical plots were a form of entertainment to address adult society.

In “L’oiseau d’or” you can clearly see the switch in the audience these fairy tales were written for by reading “Les Douze mois” in the section fairy tales of yesterday and “Le Noel de Petite Pomme” in fairy tales of today. “Les Douze mois” meaning The Twelve months originally a slavic fairy tale then re-written by Edouard Laboulaye is a story about a peasant widow with a step daughter and her own daughter. The step-mother hated her step daughter because she was as beautiful as her daughter was ugly. On a snow filled day in January the step daughter is asked to go collect a bouquet of violets and if she comes back empty handed she will be beaten to a pulp. At the top of the mountain she encounters the Twelve months wearing long robes and she tells them about why she’s here. March helps her and she comes back with a fresh bouquet of violets. The next day she has to fetch strawberries and so June helps her and the following day she has to fetch apples and so September helps her. However, she only managed to get two apples from the tree and that angered the mother. The daughter decides she will go fetch them herself but as she arrives on top of the mountain she insults January and so a snowstorm breaks out. Her mother worried goes looking for her and both never came back. It wasn’t until spring that the two cadavers were found. The step daughter marries and lives happily, looked after by the Twelve months and as the french saying goes she has “Winter at the door, Summer in the attic, Autumn in the basement and Spring in her heart.” The brutal deaths and finding of the corpse goes to show how this fairy tale was not entirely intended to be read by children.

Whilst the fairy tale “Le Noel de Petite Pomme” meaning The Christmas of Little Apple, which is in the second section is more modern. It is a French fairy tale written by Rene Jacquenet about a six year old boy on Christmas Eve nicknamed Little Apple. His parents had to go to the village and told him to wait for them and behave well. After passing time playing it is now almost night time and Little Apple decides to leave the house so he can meet up with his parents who should probably be on their way home. The forest notices Little Apple leaving the house and like every other time the trees say his name and soon the entire forest hears that Little Apple is walking in the forest. The snow is thick and the night suddenly turns dark and Little Apple has lost his way. The old tree he is leaning against wakes up and asks the forest for help. And so the animals come together and help Little Apple stay warm. The Forest loves Little Apple because he is such a kind and patient boy and so as it is Christmas Eve they want to give him a gift. The trees call out to Santa Claus who’s flying above them and ask him for help with the gift. Santa Claus asks the moon to shine brightly upon the tree Little Apple is leaning against and the animals decorate the tree. Little Apple is found by his parents like every lost child and comes home to wonderful presents. When he goes back to school everyone shares what they received and when Little Apple tells them of his giant beautiful Christmas tree no one believes him. But it’s all true because he’s the most well behaved child there is. This fairy tale tells a kind and heartwarming story aimed at children.

These two stories truly highlight the change and differences between the fairy tales that were first written and the fairy tales we now know. The story of “The Twelve months” is brutal, reflecting how fairy tales were written for adults whilst “The Christmas of Little Apple” shows how fairy tales started to have morals written into them to teach children how to behave in society. Many of the fairy tales we know of today were originally very raw and brutal stories written to entertain adults.

Charles Perrault was the first to publish famous contes such as “Red Riding Hood” and “Cinderella”. (Besson, n.d) These stories have now been transformed and diverted from their original morals. Red riding hood by Charles Perrault was originally written as a warning for young girls. Charles aimed to bring awareness about how one should be careful of sweet talking men as they might not be as nice as they seem.

"I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition – neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!" (Perrault, 1697)

He really aimed to address the danger of men by giving a warning to young women. In his conte red riding hood which had been fooled and lured by sweet talks ends up dead.

"Watch out if you haven’t learned that tame wolves/ Are the most dangerous of all" (Perrault, 1697)

The original contes did not have the happy ending that you might find in the new ones out there nowadays. They have been changed over the years and re-interpreted in a way that has almost completely erased the original intent and moral they had been written with. The Grimm Brothers are also famous for their fairy tales. They too had originally quite gruesome fairy tales, in German “Märchen” which meant little stories. The Grimm tales along with many other fairy tales changed through the editions. In 1812 the Grimm brothers came out with the first edition of fairy tales and a few years later in 1815 they came out with a second volume. Over the following years they published six more editions which adapted with the time, edited to become more fit for children and incorporating Christian references. And so the most spread out edition being the seventh contains the fairy tales we are most familiar with nowadays. (Flood, 2014)

In 2014, Jack Zipes goes on to be the first to fully translate into English and publish the original first edition of the Grimm tales. Zipes really wanted to give light to the original fairy tales that were almost unheard of. In an interview with Micheal Miriam in 2015 he goes on to explain how the original stories were short and gruesome and have notably been changed over the years.

“Many of the tales are shorter in the first edition. They’re more blunt. Rapunzel gets pregnant in the tower with the prince, there’s a little hanky-panky going on there. There are vivid depictions of children slitting each other’s throats, where a mother wants to eat her daughters because they are suffering from hunger, and she says, “Listen, I’ve gotta eat you, otherwise I’ll die.” The mothers in “Snow White” and in “Hansel and Gretel” are the biological mothers in the first edition, but they changed them in later editions to make them stepmothers. I wouldn’t call them monumental changes, but the tales are closer to the oral tradition. This is because Wilhelm really wanted, over the years, to make them into artful tales, which he did. But they’re not that way in the first edition. They’re rough.” (Zipes, 2015)