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The Tale of Despereaux

The book that changed the way I write.

By ChloePublished 11 months ago 4 min read
The Tale of Despereaux
Photo by Daniil Komov on Unsplash

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Di'Camillo completely changed the way I thought about writing.

When I read The Tale of Despereaux, I was only 8 years old, very susceptible to learning and changes. At the time, I believed what all 8-year-olds believed: the Golden Rules of Writing. You cannot have any run-on sentences. You cannot start a sentence with the letter "and." And you cannot speak to your reader using the word "I."

However, I discovered, while reading The Tale of Despereaux, that in creative writing, you are allowed to do all those things! In fact, every person has a different style of writing, which is something I never knew about. You can write absurdly, like the author Lemony Snicket, or you can write using an intrusive narrator, like Kate Di'Camillo, or you can just break every rule of writing like any writer out there.

I was completely shocked upon reading Kate Di'Camillo's tale. At 8 years old, I had a great interest in stories and storywriting myself, and was constantly keeping notebooks and journals. I was experimenting with writing in both cursive and print. (Nowadays, as a rising ninth grader, my handwriting is horrible. I never write by hand anymore, unfortunately.) As most 8-year-olds, my cursive was perfect because of handwriting class, and I was always writing those basic sentences that did not begin with "and" or "because" or "which" and ended with a period that I marked very vividly on the spot.

I first started reading The Tale of Despereaux just because I was bored and wanted a book to read. When I first opened it, it seemed like little more to me than a new and interesting story... but then I saw how Di'Camillo ended her sentences. How she began them. How she inserted the word "I." How she had run-on sentences that definitely wouldn't comply with expository writing rules. I was confused, at first... and then I was fascinated.

"What? You can write a run-on sentence in creative writing? You can start a sentence with 'and'? You can start a sentence with 'because'?" Those were the questions I had.

If you don't know, The Tale of Despereaux is a book about a small mouse born with unusually large eyes and a sharp mind. His mother, overcome with despair at his birth, names him Despereaux, the French word for "sorrow." I found that Despereaux sounded a lot like "desperate" (because back then, I wasn't allowed to use computer software for translation purposes), and I thought, "Gee... That's kind of a mean name to give your son."

And it was. And it still is. If you had a son, would you name him "sorrow" because of how much it hurt to give birth to him? No. If so, all the boys in the world would be named Sorrow.

In the story, Despereaux has an eye for beauty. Instead of chewing on paper, he reads books. Instead of eating the ink, he looks at it. Despereaux is then sent down to the dungeon filled with rats when he breaks the biggest rule of all time: do not interact with humans.

Despereaux becomes a mouse-knight. With a needle and a bit of twine, he makes himself a sash and sword, and he fights his way out of the rat-filled dungeon. As always, in the end of all fairytales, Despereaux makes it away from the dungeon and to the princess. The antagonist of the tale is accepted back into rat-society and all is well. Everyone lived happily ever after.

The Tale of Despereaux has impacted me to this day. I began to creatively write with more understanding. I began to make stories that did not have to follow the Golden Rules of Writing. In my first book, Playing with Shadows, I started to really experiment with the idea of "run-on" sentences. And then I began to start sentences with "and" and "because" and so on, so forth. I think that Playing with Shadows turned out pretty well, considering how many typos were left in it because of my terrible editor (me) and her tendency to not notice mistakes.

In my second book, Partners, I used run-on sentences way more frequently. Since the book is from the third-person perspective of a five-year-old child, run-on sentences are necessary. And so are sentence fragments. If there's one thing I know in life, it's that children do not think in complete and perfect sentences.

Now, in my third book, Kin, a sequel to Partners and only a draft right now, I do not follow any of the Golden Rules of Writing. I even included a bit of absurd writing like Lemony Snicket by repeating the same thing again and again in a loop. (To justify this, the situation was in a loop. You cannot get outside a door unless you unlock it, but you have to unlock it first, but you cannot unlock it unless you are outside of it, but you have to unlock it to get outside to be able to unlock it... It goes on and on.) I may have been an intrusive narrator at times, too.

The Tale of Despereaux taught me two things. One: Writing stories about animals and creating their lives in a completely different perspective than humanity is very interesting and quite captivating, specifically for young children.

Two, and more importantly: In creative writing, you create your own style. You do not have to follow someone else's style. You make up your own. You can be an absurd narrator, like Snicket (That's not his real name, but it's his pen name.), or you can be an intrusive narrator who addresses her readers, like Di'Camillo, or you can be whatever you like. Creative writing has no limits. Write whatever genre you see fit-- fantasy, romance, mystery, science-fiction, and all the others.

There are no set rules about writing style. You simply do whatever is you like. Kate Di'Camillo taught me that, and I thank her, and Despereaux, greatly. I would not be where I am today without the book The Tale of Despereaux and all of its fantastical wonder.


About the Creator


she’s back.

a prodigious writer at 14, she has just completed a 100,000+ word book and is looking for publishers.

super opinionated.

writes free-verse about annoying people.

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Comments (3)

  • Jazzy 11 months ago

    This was so cute. I remember also liking that book a lot, and I find it interesting you noticed the writing style. I love that you learned from it!

  • Ava Mack11 months ago

    Chloe! This piece brought such a smile to my face. I remember reading The Tale of Despereaux myself (a long time ago now) and it also had this magical quality for me. It was one of the first books I felt was talking to me, not just telling me a story it told everyone else. I also feel the same way about Lemony Snicket, one of my literary heroes. Keep up the great work!

  • Yes I totally agree that each writer has their own style. And lol, I too thought Despereaux meant desperate!

ChloeWritten by Chloe

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