The Albert Framework


Following is a list of the patterns used to construct a Project Albert story. Of course, it's not imperative that one uses all of the patterns, but using everything outlined ensures ease of improvisation and coherancy of story. It's got be easy to follow!

The pattern itself

The Albert pattern is the application of the set of constraints below, in a story with the following structure:

For the purposes of application, be aware that, while all of the constraints relate to the story as a whole in at least one way, the constraints on the characters are really most relevant at the beginning of the story, and all three topics of constraints are more guidelines than hard-and-fast rules. By definition, design patterns are made to be tweaked to our requirements. However, where possible, they should be followed; they guarentee consistancy between stories, and attempt to maximise the listener's enjoyment of the story while minimising the pressure on the storyteller themselves.

The constraints

These are the constraints one should bear in mind when creating an Albert story. Keep in mind that, while they might seem overbearing at first, they'll feel more natural with practice and will quickly become second nature when telling stories.

These guidelines should change depending on your needs as a storyteller. Hopefully, you'll find that they propell your storytelling by making it easier to create engaging tales!

Albert's World

Albert's world is a derivation of real life. This holds two purposes. Because we live in the real world, using it is:

  1. Easy to understand
  2. Very relateable

This doesn't mean it doesn't need work. In fact, Albert's world necessarily also consists of one detail that's amiss, and this is introduced at the beginning of the story. Using this means the world clearly is fictional, so disbelief is suspended from the beginning. This, in turn, serves two purposes:

  1. When the listener suspends disbelief, it feels like they're listening to a piece of fantasy, which can be more engaging than sitting to listen to a lecture about real-life events
  2. When the storyteller spins their yarn, they need to have a little wriggle room to contradict themselves or miss out details. If the listener feels like they're listening to an account of real-life events, it's much more difficult to mention details previously left out. Generally, the extra flexibility from the suspension of disbelief means the storyteller will have more flexibility when coming up with story details on the fly.

So, the pattern creating Albert's world is built from two constraints:

  1. It's based on real life
  2. A single detail is amiss, creating a fantasy feel

Also, note that the details about the world should not change story-to-story. A story in an Albert universe is a static, unchanging thing, making it easier to imerse a listener and have them suspend disbelief. It also makes stories coherant and leaves less work for the storyteller to do in working out exposition for the world.

Albert's Characters

Albert's characters can be fairly fluid, but constraining the way they are made with a design pattern can make the characters more believable for the listener and better fit into the world Albert's World lays out.

  1. Albert characters should have a defining characteristic that comes up at the same point in every story.
  2. Albert characters should have no more than a couple of defining characteristics.

The combination of these two factors means that Albert characters are relateable, but not complex. This makes Albert characters easy to follow, but also easy to improvise, which is clearly important to the goals of Project Albert.

The set of details that define the character ground the character in the listener's mind. No Albert character needs to be fully fleshed out, because no Albert story should be long enough to require it. Furthermore, few details are needed to make characters engaging for a children's story. To cement the details in the listener's head and remind them of the character they know over time, the same details should be introduced at the beginning and end of the stories every time. Details of default details for the Albert framework are given below, in the defaults section.

When it comes to incidental details about the main character, there's no limit to how many you should include; whatever is applicable for the story you're spinning is fine. However, details shouldn't change in-story or story-to-story, because of the static world as mentioned in the Albert's World section.

Albert's plot


Albert's plot structure revolves around two core ideas:

  1. There should only be one plot point to develop
  2. This single plot point should revolve around a single thing, whether that be an object or a feeling.

So, for example, you could have a story about an umbrella seen in the window of a shop, or a stranger, but it should be limited to this single item.

A corollary of #1 is that the plot point should be developed by a (possibly potential) action of the main chracter's. So, Albert might want to buy the umbrella, or befriend the stranger, and this action or prospective action is what drives the story. Limiting plot points to only one keeps the story easy to both improvise and follow. If there's enough plot that various strands can coalesce together, there's too much plot to reasonably improvise. On a similar note, if there's enough plot for any meaningful theme to emerge, your plot may also be too complex.


Mundane(adj): From classical Latin mundus, meaning "universe, world", literally "clean, elegant", a transalation of Ancient Greek kosmos, in its Pythagorean sense of "the physical universe"

Albert content should be mundane, in both the etymological and ordinary sense of the word. It should be something relatively boring about the real world, that's also an integral and relateable part of the world. Things like shopping for fruit, a walk through the park, or grabbing a coffee with a friend are simple in nature, but lend themselves to little details like the weather or how nice the leaves on the ground looked that a complex or involved plot would lose. These details of the world are the etymologically mundane parts of an Albert plot. Following a mundane plot in the etymological and modern sense serves a couple of purposes:

While mundane content might sound like a strange constraint, it makes for a pleasantly ordinary and recognisable plot. This has worked brilliantly well in practice, and is really a core concept of an Albert story; without it, the stories can quickly become too complicated to effectively improvise. This isn't a constraint that's worth skipping!

Defaults for the framework

Following the above patterns will make certain that your story falls under the safety the Albert Framework supports. However, they still leave a lot of work for the storyteller to put in; making the world well-defined and characterful and making the characters in the story interesting and relateable is a difficult thing to do!

By following the defaults laid out here, one can reduce the amount of work required by borrowing from tried-and-tested stories. This is the world I was told stories from as a child.

I've done my best to recreate it, but of course, some of the magic of the stories was inserted by the way the story was told, with voices and waggling eyebrows. With a little luck, your audience can love Uncle Albert's world just like I did a decade or two ago.


The Albert world is composed of a couple of rules:

  1. It's set somewhere in the vicinity of home, but not the same city/town When the stories were originally told to me, for example, an English town would be chosen even though we lived in Scotland. Same country (Britain), but not actually our home town. The reason for this is that, when improvising a story, if the setting is known by the audience then missing or incorrect details will stand out. Improvising is hard enough without checking facts for yourself, so the Albert default is not to use the hometown. However, if one were to use a place far away, a sense of familiarity might be lost. Therefore, use somewhere closeby enough that you could conceivably visit without difficulty; that's a good rule of thumb, particularly if the audience has heard of/passed through it but never visited the place.
  2. The main character is a penguin, but all other characters are real. This is purely because it was the way it was from the beginning. However, it supports all of the constraints laid out in the framework described above. Albert being a penguin is a good way to introduce quirkiness into the story, and that levity right from the off is a great way to introduce the Albert character, and makes him memorable the next time the story is told.

I've told Albert stories to friends when describing this project, and whenever it's brought up again, they always seem to comment on Albert stories being "the ones about the penguin from Surrey". This default seems to work well. It also keeps consistency, at least a little!


Albert's character is a penguin, but this isn't his defining characteristic; that belongs more in the construction of the Albert world. The defining characteristic of the Albert character is more of a personality trait.

With the Albert character, the default defining characteristic was that he would end the story by sitting in his favourite armchair and drink a nice, hot, cup of tea. (Commas included are to show recommended cadence when telling this characteristic; cadence doesn't necessarily make a big difference, but the little details can matter!)

This is the only real defining characteristic for the Albert character by default. Of course, you can embellish and add a couple more, but don't add too much! You'll find it easy to got lost in the detail insdtead of focusing on the actual story. In my experience, this is enough detail.


Because plot is best chosen depending on what the narrator's most familiar and comfortable with, and because plot will change significantly over time, there aren't defaults for the plot's structure or content.

However, in an Albert story, the default development of the plot should cover a simple exposition, mundane development (of the type described above) and end with a comfortable resolution. Generally, Albert plots are centered around some goal of Albert's; examples would be buying food for dinner, or making a friend, or finding a delicious coffee.

Albert stories, by default, have very small plots so that they're both easy to develop and easy to improvise. The mundane goal is intended to assist this, so by sticking to that part of the plot pattern, the defaults for plot are already met.