Kissing & Fireballs: the complexities of co-authorship

My kids, J (5) & K (almost 4), have a friend over, a 6-year-old boy I’ll call A. I told them I was going to try and do some writing while they played, but our apartment isn’t very big and it’s sort of impossible to focus while they are crashing about. As far as I can tell, the game they are playing is like a fanfic mish-mash of Tolkien and Harry Potter, with just a touch of Sweet Valley High or something (kissing comes up at random moments).

The props: J. clutches a tattered copy of The Silmarillion and wields a foam sword. A. has constructed a sword out of cardboard and has taped various other toy weapons to his body and has a loop of rope slung over his shoulder. K. is wearing a cape and superhero mask and has a lightsaber, but he is currently sitting at my feet drawing dinosaurs.

J: We have to cross the Mountains of Terror, where there are…

A: Zombies!

J: No… well, OK. Well, there aren’t zombies, there are giant spiders.

A: Pretend I know all about the Grim.

J: Pretend I do, too!

A: Yeah.

J: Hey, A…

A: Call me Harry.

J: But I like calling you A.

A: OK, let’s pretend Harry is my real name but A. is my nickname.

J: OK. So, we have to cross the mountains, and this is our map. (shows map from the Silmarillion and they examine it together)

A: (picking up stuffed cheetah) Let’s pretend that this is a Baby Grim we caught to be our pet.

J: Yeah!

A: And we need climbing ropes.

J: This is going to be a very tough journey. (sighs heavily)

A: Uh oh. I think the Grim are coming.

J: And Shelob is their leader!

A: Run! There’s more coming!

(They run back and forth. K looks up from his dinosaur picture to watch them) 

J: Here, put on this armor, it’s Mithril.

A: Fireball! Fireball!

J: Fireball! Aaargh!

(K stops drawing dinosaurs and joins the game) 

K: I have mifril armor too.

A: Who are you?

K: I’m Darth Vader. (breathes like Darth Vader) 

A & J exchange a look.

A: We’re not playing Star Wars.


J: Well… are you good or bad?

K: Good.

A & J exchange another look and silently decide to drop it.

A: (picks up stuffed dragon) I found an animagus!

J: Is he wounded?

A: No. Look, these two are kissing on the lips. (makes cheetah and stuffed dragon kiss) 

J&K gape, amazed. A. makes kissing sounds and keeps mashing the stuffed animals’ faces together.

J: (tiring of the kissing scene) Oh no! Look out, they’re coming!

A: (dropping stuffed animals) Fireballs! Run!! It’s The Grim!!!

Everybody screams and runs. 

I am transcribing this because I find it hilarious but I’m also vaguely unsettled at how closely their game mirrors my own inner monologue when I’m writing.

*Adds more kissing*

*Adds more fireballs*


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