Childhood Games; or, Writing Out Loud

I spent the Labor Day weekend with my family and more specifically, my nieces, who are 3 and 1. The 1-year-old is doing the usual 1-year-old thing of toddling around, eating everything, grinning, and drooling. The 3-year-old wanted to show off her Halloween costume (Princess Tiana, if you’re interested), then played on the playset outside loudly and very imaginatively.

She said it was a spaceship. They were flying through space to Planet Monster. Her engine was dying, it had bugs in it.  Hysterical, and some proof to me that children born in this very digitized age do still have imaginations.

I spent my childhood doing the same thing–and really, what is it but telling ourselves a story, making it up and acting it out? It’s writing, but in acting form.

I still do this, to some degree, because I have a habit of talking to myself. I think it’s an only child thing. I’ll talk out dialogue or do both sides of a conversation (with myself, granted, but it’s in character, dammit!). In order to “project” the character outside of my head, I used to talk to the air beside me, as if the person I was writing about was sitting there and I was merely recording what they were telling me. But really, that kind of thing starts to border on the insane after a while and when your mother asks you a few times, “Oh, who were you on the phone with?” it starts to get awkward.

When I was a tween, my best friend and I spent hours on the phone with our secret game. I guess it was role playing, basically. We each had characters we’d made up, with families and spouses and milestones. Being somewhat self-important–and because we had terrible memories–we started to write down the backstories we’d made up, each more twisted than the next. And we’d play our game, describing where we were, which characters were there, what they were doing, what they said.

No wonder I wanted to be a writer. Also, now, it sounds like a great way to brainstorm. Or a great way to write a play.

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