Thursday, September 29, 2011

BUT WHY?

Following is my three year-old son's story of his life:

First I was a baby in momma's tummy.

Then I was a little boy.

Now I am a big boy.

Then I'll be a grown up...

...and then I'll be a duck!

I don't think that way. Most people, even the most creative people I know, don't think that way. We have certain constants, such as: human children don't grow up to be ducks.

But what if they did?

I will admit to coming to him when I've written myself into a corner, explaining the story so far - with no simplification - and then asking his opinion on where it should go. Sometimes he just asks questions about a few things that stuck in his mind. Other times he'll continue telling the story, usually with an expanded cast, and swords. And ducks. Sometimes he'll do that thing that all parents know and dread.

Tabitha rode her motorcycle to the end of the road, looking for Hester. She wasn't there so Tabitha burned the shack to the ground. 

Why?

Because she was so angry at her sister, and her sister loved that house and had put years into rebuilding and filling it with things she loved.

Why?

Because when they were growing up, they were moved from one distant relative's house to another, living jointly out of a suitcase full of clothes they were quickly outgrowing. So she wanted to have a place full of her things, and walls that were always the same.

Why?

Well, their mother passed away when they were born and their father was sent off-planet, after which the force fields locked so that spacecraft couldn't come back.

Why?

Well, it was actually a conspiracy. A heroic general and the most powerful politicians in a party went off-planet to great fanfare to christen a new colony. They were supposed to be gone a month. But while they were gone, two ambitious businessmen and a young chemist who desperately wanted to prove himself, arranged for a coup following the release of a chemical that would obscure the sky.

Why?

You see where this can go? How broad or how deep you'll be forced to drill down if you just keep asking why? How you will start thinking about aspects of your characters or plot that you never would have explored on your own? I just hope I remember these lessons when I achieve duckhood.

6 comments:

  1. Most people, even the most creative people I know, don't think that way. We have certain constants, such as: human children don't grow up to be ducks.
    Quite the contrary, hillz. When I grow up, I'm going to be a fire engine.

    Sans pants, of course.

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  2. No, not "Why?" The real question is "Why not?"

    Ducks are awesome. They get to paddle around all day, and play in mud, and by happy and carefree and eat the bread that people throw at them. Ducks. Are. Awesome.

    And your son is awesome for knowing it!

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  3. You (and your son) should listen to "My Life As a Duck," by Charlie Winston.

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  4. I like to think that when I achieve duckhood, all my human memories will be washed away.

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  5. Ace, I'd actually be slightly more concerned if you wanted to grow up to be a fire engine that did wear pants.

    Jen - See, now I kind of want to grow up to be a duck. Except...no opposable thumbs. Difficult to open a wine bottle without opposable thumbs. Difficult. Not impossible.

    Marie - I am beginning my exploration of this title now.

    Bettie - You have just totally blown both my human and future duck minds. Also, I like the somber pun. ;)

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  6. OMG! HAhahahahahaha! Your son is the PERFECT editor. :) Perfect! And now I wanna be a duck when I grow up, too!

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