My boys are into Star Wars right now. Fine with me, I am not as savvy with superheroes as the Star Wars series. I have seen all the movies, know the characters, and actually adore Yoda for his spiritual perception.
Since I am now home, my little one stalks me and begs me to play. I enjoy playing with my kids, but must admit many times there are so many thoughts of things I have to do and things I want to do, I am a bit frustrated sitting in the room surrounded by stuffed animals and listening to his step by step instructions. In my effort to be more conscious of my moments here in life, especially amidst so many tragedies, I am trying to go with the flow and enjoy.
This morning we lined up all 10 stuffed animals and named each one of them from the Star Wars Bible: a list of heroes and villains and a description. Once we had our cast, I must follow my son’s instructions on what to say and the rules of the game. I’ve found him playing with his friends and brother and he’s not the pushy sort – he is very give and take but there is something about his mother that unveils his bossy side. I have to play by his rules.
Lately, I have found his rules much more enjoyable than mine.
Rule number 1: No one dies. He tells me this solemnly each time we begin playing. There are great battles of good versus evil and many get hurt. But they are never dead. They each get up after the injury completely heals, and are issued an apology from the bad guy who hurt them. This would make the world a better place.
Rule number 2: Every one gets to play. Each character has a part – even a one liner – and is involved as a group effort.
Rule number 3: Everyone must have fun. There is singing, dancing, building of forts and swamps, and great creatures all around us. When my son senses my growing distress as time ticks on, he literally grabs my chin and makes me focus on his face, like I am the child and he is the parent. Then he says my name. “Mommy.” And I am brought back.
Rule number 4: There is always a happy ending.
This morning’s play time sparked my creativity about life and writing. Why is it so bad to crave a happily ever after? We should be aware of the bad in the world, but we need to hold on to the belief that good will triumph. Solid play time is needed in all of our lives and so easily dismissed with a wave of the hand and a sniff about “real life.” Play is real life.
Writing is a form of play that keeps me alive. It is also a reminder to make sure your characters play. If every section of dialogue is serious; if each plot twist is so fast we don’t have time to breathe; and if your characters don’t seem to be able to laugh, I don’t think you are doing your character justice. I love to create a quirk or a funny secret for each of my characters. In The Tantric Principle, my heroine curses like a truck driver; says anything on her mind; but will melt at the first sight of a furry animal, especially a dog. Interaction with animals and children always lighten things up and bring out a character’s playful side. Another way is giving a character a hobby he/she is passionate about – the quirkier the better. In my novel, The Marriage Bargain, my heroine is a fanatic about baseball – particularly the NY Mets. This, of course, is a perfect contradiction to the hero’s love for the winning Yankees, and becomes a funny way to bring out their personalities.
Sometimes, a happily ever after can be a short chapter of afternoon playtime; a solitary cup of coffee; or the wonderful two words we type after a finished manuscript: The End.
I wish all of you a little play – for you, your children, and your characters.