Books Are for Boring People, Not Ten Year Olds

I’ve done research. I’ve spent hours in a library, flipping through books so dusty I couldn’t stop sneezing for weeks after touching them. I’ve gotten lost in the stacks of my University library, fearfully glancing over my shoulder every few seconds. The flickering lights and echoing silence of the building can’t help but make me feel like I’m trapped on the set of a horror film.

I’ve done research. I’m familiar with what it takes. But that’s for writing boring papers. That sort of research is what you do when you have to worry about being factually correct.

It isn’t the type of research that you do when you’re ten years old and you and your best friend decide you’re going to write a novel.

The research you do when you’re ten involves carefully selecting your favorite costumes, because the main characters (who totally aren’t self-inserts. Nope. They’re elves. They have pointy ears. We didn’t.) would totally wear those outfits. Zippers and all. Because they have zippers in medieval fantasy. Then because one of the characters is a mage (your friend’s character, not yours, because you’re a tough-as-nails warrior. Who wears dresses.), you gather together scrolls.

You don’t bother writing on them, because both of you have chicken scratch for hand-writing and cursive is hard and everyone knows that mages only write in elegant cursive script. So naturally only mages can see the writing on the scrolls. But you need somewhere to store the scrolls. Somewhere safe, where they won’t get crushed. So you raid your parents film canisters. They’re not using them any longer and they’re the perfect size to put small, wound up magic scrolls into.

We dried out herbs, whatever wildflowers and weeds we could find in our backyard or along the side of the road. They had fancy names. Ones that looked like they belonged in a proper fantasy novel. We should probably count ourselves lucky that we didn’t get poison ivy.

Magical artifacts were our next concern. And weaponry. Thankfully I grew up in a household where saying “mommy, I want a sword for my birthday” was not an unusual request, and was granted with alarming frequency. Weaponry, check. But that left magical artifacts. They had to be cool. They had to be special. They had to scream “I have power.” So naturally we chose some rocks we picked up from the river while at camp. Magical artifacts, check.

And, as things are wont to happen, we moved away from each other. But we were determined to keep up work on our novel. Because we already knew, with all the confident superiority of children, that this was going to take the world by storm. We were going to be best-sellers like the world had never seen before. So we developed our own language so that we could communicate to each other about the novel without anybody being able to steal our ideas. We had cheat sheets with the translations of words, because there wasn’t really a system for how we came up with them. When we needed a new word, we randomly threw some letters together and gave it an English meaning. As you can probably guess, we never actually wrote much in our new secret language.

Whenever we got together for the next several years, we continued to work on our novel. We made elaborate maps of the world. We named the continent, but always referred to it as TS for “Top Secret.” The moment we finished one version of the map, we immediately decided that it wasn’t big enough. Or in color. Or we messed up a line somewhere and had to start over. Map drafting occupied most of our free time.

About the only thing we ever wrote down on our project were character bios. They focused on the important things, like height, eye color, favorite foods, and love interests. Because we were ten. And that’s what you do when you’re ten.

In retrospect, maybe actually researching things from a book would have been a more productive use of our time. But you know what? We had fun. And that’s really what it’s all about.

At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.

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