Saturday, August 14, 2010

Writing Tips I Learned From My Kids

So I'm watching X-Men with my son, and he says, "Daddy, who's this movie about?"

And I say, "Well, the first character you see is usually the main character. For this movie, who's the first character?"


"So that's it. Magneto's the main character."

"But I thought it was about Wolverine."

"Was Wolverine the first character?"


"Was Wolverine the guy at the end of the movie?"


"That's right. The first scene was Magneto. The last scene was Magneto. Everything about the plot was Magneto. Magneto was the Main Character. See how that works?"

"Yeah, I guess. I still like Wolverine better. He's way cooler than Magneto."

And my daughter, we're watching The Day the Earth Stood Still, and they're standing in front of the alien spacecraft and Jennifer Connelly is walking toward the alien, holding out her hand toward this unknown being who just a few seconds earlier about leveled NYC, and my daughter says, "It's always a smart person who walks up to the alien to shake hands. Then some stupid person with a gun shoots them."

Then somebody shot the alien.

"See!" she said.

Stupid somebody!

So remember these lessons my write buddies and baddies: The Main Character is always the first person -- not the most interesting -- smart people stick their hands into the blender, and stupid people shoot things they don't understand.

Everything you ever needed to know about writing, courtesy of my childrenses.

You're welcome.

- Eric


Raquel Byrnes said...

Out of the mouths of babes. They seem to be eerily accurate at the strangest times.

You know, I always thought the main character had to be the most interesting, but now I see that a lot of times its the villain that has the most layered story.


Anastasia V. Pergakis said...

Thanks for sharing this Eric! Our kids definitely inspire us more often than not. This made me laugh out loud at how adorable it was. And the insites were very true too!

Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

That's one smart daughter you have there, dude. BTW, I LOVE Independence Day, not because it's such a great movie but because it has such great characters and the actors cast are perfect.

It also has themes that spoke to my heart, like the world uniting to oust the aliens. And the drunk father saving the world and earning the respect of his kids (Randy Quaid, gotta love him!). And the exotic dancer 'saving' the President's wife. Harry Connick, Jr. should NOT have died (of course), but I love the scene where Will Smith kicks the alien because it stinks.

I could go on and on. But my point is: even with a thin plot, great characters will win the day for me as a reader and watcher.

As always, your post struck a chord and is timely with me.

Thanks! ~that rebel, Olivia

Eric W. Trant said...

Raquel: Both my kiddos are pretty smart. They see the obvious so much clearer than we do.

Anastasia: My kids keep me laughing. And cursing. Sometimes both at the same time.

Olivia: I removed the snip about Independence Day. That was inappropriate of me. I can do that sometimes... ;)

- Eric

Jemi Fraser said...

That is awesome! Great observations from both of them. I hope I'd be the one sticking my hand in the blender! And I agree Wolverine is cooler :)

Jai Joshi said...

Truer words etc etc.

Kids always notice stuff that a lot of the time adults don't even register. Gotta love the little tykes!


dolorah said...

LOL; that was cool. My Bug does that to me sometimes too; makes me think about a movie or story line for a game and when I explain it to him, and get his feedback, I've learned something new. Or at least, re-learned something I'd forgotten in my vast experience and biases.


Phoenix said...


Wolverine IS technically cooler; it's just that Magneto is a lot more complex and therefore a character that could actually arc and carry an entire movie plot. He's cool in a cerebral kind of way, but Wolverine's cool in a "I'll kick your ass if you look at me wrong" kind of way. Big difference.

I'm glad your daughter is picking up on pacifist ideology from quality entertainment. ;)

Okie said...

Nice! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful bunch of rather profound writing tips. :)

Anonymous said...

Great post. You can learn a lot from kids. That's why so many focus groups use children. I make sure all my books begin and end with the main character. I thik of the Columbo series (my fav TV show of all time). It would always begin with 15 minutes of the criminal committing the murder. Some stories can begin without the main character. But for my, I prefer to begin with the protagonist.

Stephen Tremp

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh out loud at your daughter's "See!", children do get it down to the basics, don't they?

Lola Sharp said...

What I want to know is am I a buddy or baddy?

Cute post. I too liked when your daughter said "See!".

And, Wolverine is cooler.

Eric W. Trant said...

Hey, thanks all for responding! I also laughed when my daughter said, "See!" and fully agreed with my boy that Wolverine is way cooler.

Now I'm off to visit your wonderful blogs.

- Eric

RaShelle Workman said...

Well I'm here for the rainy day blogfest, but was distracted by this post first. Learning from kids (which is alot) so I had to read. And I loved it. Loved. Loved. Loved. Smart kids you got there. LOL

Amanda Borenstadt said...

LOL Kids are priceless! Mine always give me great writing tips and inspire me.

And I agree, Wolverine is way cooler.