Our grandkids, ages six, four, and two, spend many hours with us. Fortunately I’ve been given grace and patience when it comes to these three very different little people. Their unique personalities and spin on life have given me new insight into my writing. I’ve discovered their imaginary worlds are akin to my creative process. When they visit Mimi and Pops, the world as I know it and my writing come to a screeching halt. Complete with skid marks.
At least I thought it stopped.
What I’ve learned is how much they are teaching me. They have affected how I view my surroundings and create by showing me that play makes me a better writer. I can now kick down the doors of my self-imposed box and explore the world of story.
Play and the fiction world are really the same. Play is work for children, and writing is work for an adult. Why not enjoy the benefits of a mind that has no boundaries?
How did I stumble onto this great truth? It wasn’t a light bulb moment, but a series of experiences all involved with play.
The oldest grandchild is nearly seven, a sweet girl who is into drama, dance, and music. The world is a stage. She accompanied me to the beauty salon and while I was on my way to becoming beautiful, a song played over the radio. She knew it. Sang it complete with hand motions. At the close, the whole salon clapped. The great thing? She had no idea anyone was listening. Her goal was to explore the song.
Lesson number one:
Don’t be held back by inhibitions. Give yourself the freedom to enjoy your story and expect an adventure. Go with your gut on what makes a story stand out from the others. Add intrigue to your setting and twist the plot to lead the reader on an unforgettable journey.
The middle four year old is a boy. All boy. He lives in a world of superheroes—Spiderman, Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Hawkeye. His imagination has no fence line. When he plays, he becomes the superhero. He scales tall buildings and fights the bad guys. He talks the jargon and leaps over chairs, sofa backs, and behind doors. I tried to keep up with my own supermimi interpretation and became The Hulk. What did I learn?
Lesson number two:
Put on the dress of your character. Wear the clothes with your mind and your heart. Close your eyes and put the character’s actions into play. Exchange dialogue woven with body language and emotion. Convince yourself that you are the character. Think method acting. Then fly.
The youngest little girl hasn’t decided if she enjoys being a girl or a boy. She carries a baby doll while pretending to be Spiderman. Her world changes according to her whim. Her baby has to be fed, or she flips her wrist to summon a spiderweb. With a smile, she could summon the angels, and with a scream, she’d frighten a demon. She loves Curious George and does a great imitation. I tried that too.
Lesson number three:
Why develop ho-hum characters? Instead give them unpredictable behavior and confirm their motivation in backstory. Show the character with multiple interests and a few quirks. Give the character courage to attempt great things, and wisdom to learn how to defeat the enemy in a world where every turn adds to the storyline.
The art of creating a powerful story means pushing aside the real world with all its limitations and stepping into the world of a child. I became a ballet dancer, The Hulk, and a mischievous monkey. Let your creativity run free!
DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. She is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also the Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.