Mommy, tell me a story?

October 4, 2007 at 10:51 pm | Posted in creativity, imagination, Meg, story, storytelling | Leave a comment

My son loves books and stories. When he was younger we’d sit in the rocking chair and I’d create fantasies of his exploits with superheroes, dinosaurs and Peter Pan. His begging and whining for more kept him up long past bedtime so I had to create a story to limit the stories.

That is how Sagabell came into our lives. Sagabell is Tinkerbell’s sister and the Fairy of the Story. In the magic tree in Neverland, she weaves elaborate tales of mischief and fun. Each night she flies to our home and if my son is fast asleep, Sagabell leaves her handiwork in our magic story jar. If she finds him awake, her tiny wings fly her home and we have no adventure to ‘read’ the next night. And since she’s so small, she can only bring three stories to us. Then it’s lights out and off to sleep as fast as can be.

Believe it or not, this worked every night. Bedtime was a joy and we both looked forward to seeing if Sagabell came. He took his stories out of the magical jar, told me who was in them and listened attentively. Of course, he often tried to convince me Sagabell had snuck in an extra small account of life on Neverland and sometimes she did. That pixie couldn’t resist his excitement and cute freckles (or fairy kisses) anymore than I could.

Unfortunately, Sagabell no longer visits us. My son has outgrown his nap and falls asleep too quickly at bedtime for a story. Believe me, I’m not complaining, but sometimes I miss those moments when we escaped into a magical world where he battled Captain Hook or when Timmy the T-Rex moved into the neighborhood.

I loved that time for many reasons, one being that it reminded me how important the story is. You can have wonderful characters gifted with the ability to fly, but without having something for them to do, they just hover in the air. The story is in the action. The verbs we use to tell what’s going on. The answer to “and then what did he do?” Or “then what happened?” And “why?” That was how Sagabell came about- the ever present why in a toddler’s vocal repertoire.

Me: You can’t have another story tonight.
Son: Why?
Me: Um, because there aren’t anymore to tell.
Son: Why?
Me: (insert pause as I scramble for a good enough answer to stop the inquisition) Because the story fairy didn’t bring anymore last night.
Son: Why?

If you’ve ever been around a toddler in this phase, you know what I’m talking about. And I’m sure you had a limit on your creativity and finished with “Because I said so!” Unfortunately, in writing, we don’t get a “Because I said so!” We have to take the story to its end, even when we have no idea what to do with flying heroes. And when you’re stuck, use a toddler to prompt you with that wonderful “why” or “and then what does she do?” (I don’t recommend a real one in case you have limited patience- pretend or ask a grownup to help you). You’ll be amazed how quickly you get to the root of the story arc when pestered. Then you’ll have something exciting for the flying hero to do, something unique and attention grabbing so the reader will want you to put another story in their jar.


HALO 3 and Imagination

September 24, 2007 at 8:54 am | Posted in imagination, Jessica, writing | 6 Comments

Clan Name: Purple Hearts

OK, so I am shamelessly aligning my post this week in time to the release of the much-anticipated HALO 3.

Apologies to all you gamers who arrived here by accident, but I hope you will take a chance, look around, and decide to stay a while. I could really use your help in learning the nuances of this gaming craze! I admit, I am not a gamer and can’t say I know the first thing about what makes HALO so special.

But I couldn’t resist this chance for a rant so I hope you’ll bear with me. One of the things I love to discuss most is writing but I have learned that not all ‘friends’ support me equally in my writing interests.

One such friend started out pretty supportive of this whole writing venture. He asked great questions and offered endearing encouragement. Until one day, when he shared his concern or frustration or criticism (I haven’t quite figured out which) that I spent too much time in my imagination and needed to get out more. There’s more backstory here, but suffice to say these comments (delivered with condescending tone I might add) represented such a complete 180 from where we once were that to this day I am still somewhat boggled by the shift in our relationship.

But that’s a topic for another blog all together. Back to the matter at hand:

Only after this confusing exchange did I learn just how deep his Halo obsession ran. Because the more time I’ve had to dissect it, I’ve decided that he and I, as a gamer and a writer, aren’t all that different.

Here’s where writing and gaming seem similar to me:

Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard (or X-Box, or Play Station). To master your craft takes practice. In the writing world, the best practice is to sit down and write. I imagine it’s the same dedication and interest for a gamer, too. You can’t win if you don’t play, right?

Skill acquired and required:
There are lots of players in the game. Who wants GAME OVER to flash on their screens? We learn all we can so we can emerge victorious at the end of each session.

Fighting a battle each and every time we sit in front of the screen:
While you Halo folks battle The Covenant, writers battle their own evils – internal editors, critics, perfectionists; those pesky creations who won’t behave according to plan; that mocking, blinking MS Word cursor. Words are our weapons.

Lag is a drag:
Lag defined as: when the game doesn’t respond right away. Let me tell you – wait 6 months on a submission and complain to me about lag.

To blow up – Boom! Getting fragged by an editor or agent = rejection. Not too much fun, especially after a 6 month lag. Kinda’ like getting hit with a plasma grenade/pistol/rifle/sword.

Signature moves:
We all have our signature moves – those clever turns of phrase that we just can’t seem to resist throwing in there, whether warranted or not. In Halo, you’d be called a whore. Either way, we go back to what works to get the job done.

Since when is having a good and active imagination a bad thing? I can’t imagine that a writer or gamer could get very far without one, and I can’t imagine the life of someone who doesn’t exercise it. So to be criticized by a gamer – someone who has played at least 1,847 online games and has 16,225 total kills attributed to his handle – for spending too much time in my imagination seems a tad bit hypocritical.

Albert Einstein once said:
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

And I am also left to wonder – Are there many men out there who mind a woman with a good imagination? I think not.

And Last, But Not Least:
Preston Cole is a great name for a hero, no matter what world we’re talking about.

So to all you writers and HALO aficionados and gamers everywhere, suit up for your respective battles. May you meet your challenges, overcome your obstacles, and conquer your respective versions of campaign mode this week.

Thanks for indulging my rant. And by all means, be careful out there!


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