In my lifetime I’ve taken many classes on writing. I took every creative writing class Washburn University offered, enrolled in Playwriting (twice) and even took a couple directing classes so I could experience taking another writer’s ideas and giving them form. If I could bring to life something from Tom Stoppard or even Shakespeare, I could use that experience and knowledge to flesh out my own characters and stories. These classes weren’t just for fun (though they were the most fun I had in college) but were genuinely educational. I learned so much about writing in those classes and not just technical skills and structure. I learned that it wasn’t just a class or a hobby, it was a passion.
Now I’ve always told stories. While most kids might’ve been content bashing their action figures together and flinging them across the room, that was never my style. I plotted out nearly every action, every reaction, every voice even, before picking up one single toy. Skeleton wasn’t just a bad guy because he was on tv, I gave him true motivation. He was angry because He-Man had stolen his sword, slapped his panther on the bottom and dropped the sword into a swamp. And thus Skeletor recruited villains from all across Eternia to crash Orko’s birthday party and destroy the cake. Needless to say the party went south and everybody died. Except Orko. I just didn’t have the heart to do it.
Not all my stories were quite so dark. Whenever my imagination would venture into a galaxy far, far away, I was inspired by the comedies I had grown up with, most notably Monty Python and the films of Mel Brooks. My version of Star Wars was much more like Spaceballs with wisecracking stormtroopers, inept bounty hunters, and an extremely flatuelent Jabba the Hutt. I even at one point gave R2-D2 a voicechip so I wouldn’t have to replicate his beeps and bloops. He was quite vulgar and had an inexplicable Brooklyn accent. He also kinda had the hots for Princess Leia for some reason?
I’m not saying my plots were Pulitzer-worthy but they were meticulously thought out. Plus, I was like, six. Give me a break.
Action figures weren’t just fun, increasingly expensive pieces of plastic that I begged my parents to buy me. Each one was a storytelling device, a new character to add to an existing narrative in my own head. I could give them any voice I wanted, any personality; they could be brilliant tacticians, loyal lackeys, or imbecilic cannon fodder. Sometimes all three if the situation called for it. And many situations I came up with required cannon fodder. Lots and lots of cannon fodder.
Toys gave me an opportunity to tell stories in a way I couldn’t express in words, at least not the written word. Spelling was a strong suit, but formulating my thoughts into those correctly-spelled words did not come as easily. I’ve always been a visual, hands-on type of a learner and being able to set up action figures and vehicles and playsets in a way that matched what I saw in my head helped me tremendously when developing stories. I learned a lot about developing characters as well and molding them into something more than the one seen on-screen in movies or cartoons.
One such character I was quite fond of was an infamous bounty hunter called Boba Fett…
To be continued.