Little Plastic Heroes
In November of 2002, I wrote a 50,000 word novel in 30 days as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The result was a novel called Little Plastic Heroes.
The world of Little Plastic Heroes is almost exactly like ours, except that action figures just happen to be alive. They are the perfect pet. They are only six inches tall. They don't eat, they don't drink, they don't need a litter box. They are tiny little friends that talk to you, hang out with you, and keep you company.
Picture a woman who has two female action figures moving in with her boyfriend who has two male action figures. There are a lot of changes, the house feels too crowded, a plastic version of sibling rivalry ensues.
Every good story needs a villain. In this one, it's a neighborhood cat. In a world where action figures are alive, cats and dogs find them fun to chase and terrorize.
One day while I was writing, I decided that my action figure characters had friends in the neighborhood. This required names and personalities for their friends, but I was already partway through November and had absolutely no time to do character sketches for side characters. So, I took the artistic liberty of basing the side characters on people I know and using their real first names so I wouldn't need a decoder ring to write my own story. Once I started writing my friends into the novel, over 20 of them ended up as side characters in Little Plastic Heroes, although a few characters did not get dialogue. It was done in the spirit of speed-writing silliness and I hope that everyone will take it as such.
This is the first chapter of Little Plastic Heroes. It's my one of my favorite parts and I think it sets the tone nicely:
Tricia: Arriving Home
As soon as I open the door, I know there's trouble. The living room is a wreck. Within seconds, the cause of it all comes running by. My four little action figures, all in a row. Jane is firmly in the lead, yelling a war cry and holding Alex's Superman cape above her head. Alex is running right behind her, predictably demanding she give it back. Brian is running behind Alex, warning everyone that I'll be home any minute. Lisa is bringing up the rear, begging everyone to stop and talk about this.
Welcome to my world.
I put two fingers in my mouth and whistle as loud and sharp as I can. Everyone freezes and looks toward the door. Jane tries to hide Alex's cape behind her back.
"He started it!"
"She took my cape!"
"I tried to stop them, but they wouldn't listen!"
I put my fingers in my mouth and whistle again. Everyone shuts up this time.
"I don't care who started it, I'm finishing it. Jane, give back the cape, now!"
I give her a look she knows not to argue with. Jane gives Alex back his cape.
"Now, does anybody else have anything that doesn't belong to them?"
Heads shake no. Jane raises her hand.
"Aren't you even going to ask what happened?"
I can't help but vent. "Is it any different than the last five times? Somebody said something that someone else didn't like. You all start chasing each other and manage to thrash the living room, despite being only six inches tall. Did I miss anything? Oh, right, you stole Alex's cape. What the hell is that about, Jane?!"
"He needs to learn to stop getting on my nerves!"
"Ugh. Jane, Alex can meet you part way by trying to understand you better, but you need to work on controlling your temper."
Jane crosses her arms and stares at the ground. I see Alex inspecting the cape thoroughly. It's his most prized possession. He looks pretty upset.
I ask gently, "Is the cape damaged, Alex?"
He looks up for the first time since he got the cape back. "No, but it could've been! I'm sorry I made her mad again, but she shouldn't take my stuff!"
The guy has a point. "I agree, Alex. Nobody here is allowed to take anybody else's stuff without permission. If any of you don't like what someone says to you, say something back or walk away. You do not get to punish them by playing keep away with their stuff. Got it?"
Heads nod yes. I look around at the mess.
"Is this the only room you guys thrashed today?"
Lisa finally speaks up, "I think the kitchen got some of it too."
"Has anything been broken?"
Heads shake no.
"Good. The four of you have half an hour to clean this up. No yelling. No shoving. No bullshit of any kind. Got it?"
Heads nod yes.
"Move it. Now."
Everyone scatters. The guys take one side of the living room. The girls take the other. I go in the computer room to check e-mail. I can still keep an eye on them from there.
I sounded a lot like my mother just now, but at least I didn't use the "Wait 'till your father gets home" line. I hope Joe gets home first the next time they do this. He always backs me up in the aftermath, but I'd love for him to see all this in its full glory sometime.
It was an incredibly difficult and extremely rewarding experience to write this novel in 30 days (details of that process are in my NaNoWriMo 2002 Diary). As tough as it was, I'm eager to do it again.