After last Friday's post, I came up with all kinds of...well, let's say "quirky" things we writers do. Here is another of my favorites:
You might be a writer if...you try out scene or plot scenarios on innocent, unsuspecting children.
I hang my head in admission. I do this to my children all the time. They are seven and nine and haven't caught on yet. God help me when they do. But until then, they are my real live guinea pigs.
I am ashamed to admit that I don't just stop there. If there is a kid in my car during carpool time, and I'm mulling over a plot issue, story idea, you name it, they may be asked for their opinion. Of course, the results are never what I'd expect.Never.
For instance, I was working on a pretty spunky character a while back, and I was trying to come up with a spunky reply to the classic parent question we all harass our kids with: "What they want to be when they grow up?" So, come carpool one morning, an SUV full of unsuspecting kids ranging from 2 to 7, I popped the question.
Most of the kids gave answers parents would more or less expect: photojournalist (7 year old boy), artist (my 6 year old daughter), I don't know (5 year old girl - today at 9, she still doesn't know. Probably grow up to be an insanely rich computer mogul), and then from my 3 year old daughter....silence. Nothing. Nada.Not even a peep.
Me: Honey, come on, what do you want to be?
Daughter: I don't know.
Me: Oh, you can come up with something.
Daughter: HUGE sigh. I wanna be a hot dog.
Peels of laughter from all other kids in car.
Stunned silence on my part. I'd now completely forgotten the whole experiment thing I was doing because my kid wants to be a hot dog. A hot dog! She doesn't want to be the kid who sings the Oscar Mayer song. She doesn't even want to drive the funky hot dog car that tours the U.S. No, no. She wants to be the hot dog itself.
Me: Honey, you can't be a hot dog. (Yes, yes, I know, evil mother dashing her child's dreams and imagination at an early age, but, come on, she said she wanted to be a hot dog. I wasn't going for nuclear physicist at this point but at least something animate.) You have to be something alive.
Daughter: (HUGE sigh, not the I-don't-know-what-I-want-to-be sigh but the why-doesn't-my-mother-leave-me-alone sigh you'd expect from a teenage daughter, which made me wonder at that moment very much about what those upcoming years will be like for us.)
Oh, all right. I'll be an owl.
Me: (Stifled sigh. An owl? Well, at least it's a living thing.) Nothing else?
Daughter: (Adamantly). I want to be an owl!
I should disclose at this point that we were speaking in German, my husband's native language, and my youngest was having a hard time at that point understanding all of the German. What do you want to be? and What do you want to eat? are pretty similar, and maybe she mixed them up (which makes me worry for the owl).
Since then, I have learned from my all-too-honest carpool crew that I had the name completely wrong for my first picture book (it was changed before going to press), that if you are doing battle in the middle of the woods, your wand should shoot out a few squid for good effect. And that, when pressed to choose, my kids would rather a parent be killed off in a story than a dog. They expressed regret at this decision, but stayed firm. Not even bribes of chocolate could change their minds.
You'd think I'd have learned after that last doozy of a response. I haven't. I still ask them all sorts of things, but I do make sure the dog and I are no where close when it comes to issues of life or death. I'm only a parent after all.
Causes Stacy Nyikos Supports
ASPCA, Humane Society, Wildlife Federation