Toy Story

After watching The Lego Movie for the third time recently (bet you thought the post title referred to Pixar’s Toy Story, didn’t you?), I watched the behind-the-scenes documentaries. When someone mentioned that the directors (Phil Lord and Chris Miller) are kids at heart, I couldn’t help relating to the notion of being a kid at heart. This led me to take inventory of the games and toys I have at home. Pardon me while I indulge. I’ll totally understand if you run away to seek more grown-up pursuits. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to return. Look for the bold text.

        Phil_Lord_by_Gage_Skidmore Chris_Miller_by_Gage_Skidmore

Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Um, this is not the signal to return.)

I acquired this tiger at a Girl Scout camp when I was 11. Believe it or not, this is not my oldest toy. But I didn’t feel like digging around in my closet for anything older. Say hi. He won’t bite.

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I have a lot of Nintendo DS games, for example:

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The Sam and Frodo minifigs below were party favors. I’m not sure where Sam’s hair is.

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And I’ve got this pair, which totally inspires me, since I’m a fan of knights and of the hero’s journey.

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I also have a Scaredy Squirrel hand puppet (a character from books by Mélanie Watt), but I wrote a post on it before.

Okay. It’s safe to return from your grown-up pursuits.

Some might look at the above collection and think, Oh man, you need to grow up, especially if they have strong opinions about what adults should or shouldn’t do. I’m tempted to put a link here to an article that has many people outraged since it disparaged some popular young adult novels adults should be ashamed to read (or so we’re told), but I don’t want to give more publicity to that article or to the author of it. I offer no apology for having this stuff, nor am I ashamed of having it. After all, I mainly write for kids and teens. But I don’t have this stuff in the hopes of getting into the mindset of a kid. I have this stuff, because I never put away a sense of childlike wonder. I hope I never do.

But don’t think that a sense of wonder is only appropriate for books for kids. If you’re writing for adults, your sense of wonder needs to be engaged also, in order to keep a reader hooked.

Now, I need you to think back to when you were a kid. Or, try to remember the last conversation you had with a kid. Maybe he or she asked you “Why?” or “What’s that?” a 100 times in the same conversation. And you had to explain everything to the nth degree. Kids are curious. They wonder about everything.

Guess what. Readers are curious too. They especially wonder about the details you might have forgotten to add. My beta readers always challenge me in that department. “Why does she do that?” “How did he get that ability?” “Why are they like that?” They ask good questions, because they’re curious. They remind me to flesh out my characters and provide a fuller back story for them. They also challenge me to keep asking myself questions about everything as I revise, to make sure I cover all the bases. Even if I don’t mention certain facts in the book, I need to be curious enough about my characters to explore all of the “whys” and “whats” of their lives. To use an analogy from The Lego Movie, I’m hope that the feedback I’ve received, plus my own sense of wonder, will work toward my becoming a “master builder”someone who can fit all of the pieces of a story together to make a pleasing whole.

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This is not the pleasing whole to which I refer.

What’s your favorite toy? How does it inspire you? How has your sense of wonder aided you recently?

Phil Lord and Chris Miller photos from Wikipedia.

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44 thoughts on “Toy Story

  1. It’s actually kind of funny that you mention this. My sister recently got rid of most of her childhood toys and my parents cleared out a lot of stuff that suddenly lost sentimental value. I kind of feel like the only person keeping childhood items right now. The big one is a Pound Puppy named Sparky who I got when I was 7. I guess each person has a different attachment to the past. As authors, we might be more attached because we tend to look back at where we came from in after writing for a while. We connect to past writing, so there is a constant sense of nostalgia. Still I really wonder why there’s this whole ‘put away childhood things’ mentality as if such items and interests are evil.

    • Ah the Pound Puppies. That brings back memories. 🙂
      Yes, I know a lot of people who think that putting away those items is a way to grow up. I think you can grow up without giving up everything. I guess that’s why you see so many happy adults walking around Disney World and Disneyland. And I’m not talking about adults with kids. I’ve seen plenty of adults who took themselves there.

      • I haven’t been to those places since I was a kid. Did Epcot and a lot of Animal Kingdom when I lived in Floria. Sea World too. People were happy there. I guess most just need an excuse to act like a kid again.

      • I wish we didn’t have to have an excuse to act like a kid. It’s funny how many adults feel guilty taking themselves to an animated movie, fearing that some other adult with judge them for seeing what they deem a “kid’s” movie. Sigh.

      • When I go to a kid movie, I just grin and nod. I also buy the kid pack with the popcorn, drink, and fruit snack in case someone wants to stare or judge.

  2. I live next door to my mum-my childhood home. I know that in her loft, among other things, is a biscuit tin that holds all of my old Star Wars figures. I’m hoping that my son James, four in August, will be able to create stories and epic adventures in the same way that his old man did. Perhaps when he gets to see the new movie being made that features those original characters.
    A long time ago, in a loft far, far away….well, next door.

      • No-at the moment he is very unaware of Star Wars. But he is obsessed with Doctor Who, so the sci fi seed has been sown. He keeps ‘deleting’ our poor student as he eats his breakfast.

  3. I’m glad you’re not ashamed to still have some of your childhood toys, Linda…you shouldn’t be. I still have a few stuffed animals, but that’s about all. I wish I still had my Legos. I remember spending hours with those. I also loved my Weeble People and the Fisher Price Little People. Bring back the toys!

    • Jill, treat yourself to a set of Legos! You deserve them. I also miss some of my old toys. And the Weebles were pretty awesome, weren’t they???? I’m glad that Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony are still going strong.

  4. What a coincidence! My two most recent blog posts, including the one that went up last night on a Master Builder Event at Toys R Us that I, uh, attended, are about this topic as well. I’m very proud of the contraption that I built, so you all should see it, and I’m creating a story on Instagram that features it.

  5. Pingback: Am I a Master Builder? | Lyn Miller-Lachmann

  6. Toys rule. I can’t pass through the toy section at Target without looking at the Star Wars stuff. I’ve gotten Taoist in my old age and sold most of my stuff that was worth anything, but I can still relate to the tactile pleasure of toys.

  7. Ahh, childhood. I remember it like it was only yesterday. Why? because I have constantly refused to ‘grow up’ and still consider myself a child. I don’t have any toys – we used to break and burn them, or as some people call it ‘play with them’, so none of my treasured possessions survive. Don’t you feel sorry for these anal kids nowadays who buy two of everything and keep one in the box for posterity? Is that what childhood has been reduced to? A dollar value?
    Anyway, I digress. Refusing to grow up is the calculated resistance to an onslaught of Nazi grown-upism. I’m not an irresponsible jerk, I’m a freedom fighter in the Peter Pan special forces. I’m an action hero figure of my own making. And slowly, as I near my fiftieth year, I’ve taken on the camouflage of adulthood, and I’m making my way to the citadel of their lies, ready to launch my all-out attack. And when I die, my children, and my children’s children will follow in my footsteps. Fighting the glorious fight.
    If we let the adults win, the world will be over. Just imagine a theme park run by Joseph Stalin. That’s what we’re fighting against, brothers and sisters. Those who dare to dream, stand up and scream, “I’m a child and I’m proud!”

    Then, of course, there’s the Lord of The Flies scenario. Time for bed children.

    • Ha! I’m glad you mentioned Peter Pan. I belong to that school of thought. Yes. If we let the adults take over, it’s over!
      My parents keep games in various places in their living room, so I learned from the best.

  8. My wife and I are all about toys. I need to post a picture of her Simpsons collection sometime. One of my favorites lately has been Story Dice… They’re dice containing symbols and drawings that you can use in many ways. We’ll often split them up and roll one at a time, putting together a (usually crazy) story. Lots of fun and very inspirational.

  9. Good for you, Linda! What is the name of your tiger? He looks to be in excellent shape. 🙂 As always, you make an important point and case for getting in the mindset of the ‘reader’. Sadly, I don’t have any of my toys anymore. We moved almost every year and I lost track of where they were.

    • I call him a very unoriginal name: Tigger. But it was the only name I could think of.
      If you don’t have toys, then by golly it’s time for you to get some new ones! You owe it to yourself!

  10. I am kind of in love with this post. I, too, hope I never lose my sense of childlike wonder. Also, I still sleep with a teddy bear. I really love this quote from C. S. Lewis, which I think makes a wonderful point:

    “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

  11. Fun post! i grew up on a farm and our toys consisted of sticks, rocks, piles of sawdust in the spring, a rope swing over an irrigation ditch and a lot of imagination. I remember one toy my mom bought me for Christmas–a Barbie doll. I distinctly remember burying it waist-deep and bombing it with dirt clods. Nowadays, I love to build with Legos with my grandson. His favorites? Making bo-bots (robots) and crazy houses for them. That’s when I’m not dressed up like a superhero with a towel pinned around my neck, a toy light saber and a squashed cowboy hat. Sometimes it takes a kid to help me remember my inner kid. Sometimes it takes a bog post. Thanks.

    • I’m picturing you with that towel around your neck. That’s what we used to use when I was a kid and we were playing superheroes.

      Glad you’re playing Legos with your grandson. Has he seen The Lego Movie yet? He would love it!

  12. Fun post, Linda. I don’t really have childhood toys that I still look at much. Most of them have been tucked away or given away. But I’ve thought a lot about kites lately. I need to fly one again. And I still reread favorite childhood or young adult books. I’ve recently been thinking it may be time to read The Witch of Blackbird Pond again.

    • Ooo. I should pull that book out too.
      I used to love flying kites when I was a kid. I hope you get to fly one soon. I read a graphic novel by Jane Yolen recently–The Last Dragon. It involves a kite in an unusual way. I totally recommend it.

  13. Very fun post. My favorite toy (much to the disappointment of my feminist mother) was Barbie. I think a lot of my love of story-telling came from the different things I would imagine my Barbies doing or the way I imagined them interacting with each other. I actually think about those games a lot when I’m writing.

    • My Barbies disappeared after awhile, but I loved playing with them. I especially loved the wardrobe! I thought GI Joe made a much better date than Ken did.

  14. As someone who still has all of her old Barbie dolls, I cannot throw stones…….. When I go to parties, people usually find me in the back room, playing with the kids. They’re easier to talk to and don’t do all the bullshit adults do.

    One of my favorite qualities about myself is how I pretty much always see the world like a kid. There’s so much wonder and delight and beauty. I try to remind myself every day to experience things that way. I don’t always succeed, but the effort helps me grow.

    I don’t know what it does for my writing, but it made it easier to step into the shoes of a nine-year-old girl.

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