Playing Pretend, Method Writing, & Princess Stephanie

In the window of the children's gift shop at the Louvre.
I wanted it in
my size!

CONFESSION: I have never stopped playing pretend.

Sometimes, when life is a little too boring or a little too stressful, I will imagine that I am someone else. Somewhere else. It's a habit that children are supposed to grow out of, but one I find far too useful to give up.

If I'm in a doctor's office, alone and scared, I'll imagine someone holding my hand. If I'm feeling chained to my desk, I'll imagine a relaxing day in another country without nary a laptop in sight. If I'm bored and driving somewhere far away, I'll imagine an amusing companion in my passenger seat.

And, sometimes, I will imagine things just to imagine things. For instance, on a recent wintry afternoon, I imagined that I was a benevolent Snow Queen riding on the back of a triceratops and waving to my people. The Snow King rode beside me, and we were wrapped in thick furs and wearing spindly, crystal-and-silver crowns.

Because . . . why not?

So it's not surprising that I write this way, too. I call the process Method Writing, because it's similar to Method Acting. Basically, during the duration of creating a novel, I become my protagonist. I step in their shoes — sometimes literally, as I did with Lola, who loves costumes and unusual footwear! — and we talk the same, eat the same, share the same opinions, do the same activities, take the same emotional roller coaster, and . . . fall in love with the same boy.

It's often challenging to discern where I end and my characters begin. I only write about things that interest me (I cannot fathom writing something otherwise), and, therefore, a lot of me winds up in each character, and a lot of each character winds up in me. Even the not-so-nice ones. We take on each other's habits, for better and for worse. We learn from each other. And we solve our problems together.

It's a bit like therapy, honestly.

But that falling in love bit . . . because I write romance, and love is the arc . . . that falling in love is the trickiest bit of all.

√Čtienne St. Clair was easy to fall in love with. He was, in an odd way, my first. I fell for him deeply and immediately. Because of this, Cricket Bell — the boy in Lola's story — through no fault of his own, became a challenge. The overactive method side of me felt as if I were cheating on √Čtienne, and it took several months for me to mentally make that switch, for me to fall in love with Cricket as deeply as I had with √Čtienne.

Last week, I began having terrible struggle dreams. Each night, I was forced to leave my husband and fall in love with someone else. It was sad and painful. It was just plain wrong. And it took three nights of these dreams before I realized that my unconscious was telling me that it was time to let go of Cricket and fall in love with the new boy.

Isla's boy.

How heartbreaking.

It's also nerve-wracking, and . . . kind of exciting. The strangest thing of all was something I realized this morning, while emailing a friend: Isla has had a crush on This Boy for three years (plot-wise), and I have had a crush on This Boy for three years (when the idea for the novel first occurred to me), and now it's time for us both to actually get together and fall in love.

I love that whole idea of art imitating life vs. life imitating art. It's a fine line, isn't it?

Which makes me wonder further . . . how will Isla change me? What habits will I pick up from her? What habits of mine will I give her? And what will we teach each other about ourselves?

This are big, scary questions. No wonder I find beginnings so intimidating!

Whiiiiich is why I spent this morning procrastinating again, this time with the Princess Maker (linked on Twitter by Dawn Metcalf via @srolutola).

Guys, I'm not gonna lie to you. The Princess Maker is FREAKING AWESOME for people like me who have been in love with princess stories their whole life, and who, yes, occasionally still pretend they ARE one!

But . . . another funny thing happened.

I went there to design my perfect pretty princess, right? I wasn't sure who she would be, and, therefore, I was startled when I realized that my ideal for a princess has not changed since childhood. She was, essentially, an idealized version of me.

I'd like to introduce you to Princess Stephanie:

• Red Hair

As a red-haired child, it was frustrating for me to see so many blonde and brunette princesses. The only redhead that existed was Ariel from The Little Mermaid, who I was grateful for, but who never felt like a REAL PRINCESS because she had fins for half the movie. (Which is why I wish Enchanted had existed back then! I loooove Giselle and her floofy gowns.)

• Freckles and Ghost-Pale Skin

Like me, naturally.

• Green Clothing

Green has always been my favorite color, and I was obsessed with characters who wore green, most notably Robin Hood and Peter Pan. (That corset is a bit Robin Hood-esque somehow, no?) And I honestly could. not. help myself when I saw that forest green. It was as if there were no other color choices.

• Ballet-Style Dress and Shoes

My sister was a ballerina, and apparently that longing to be an older, more sophisticated sister runs deep. This also plays into my longing for grace and poise, because I am a wicked klutz.

• Jewelry

I chose not to give her any bracelets, because I can't wear bracelets. I have extremely active hands — a trait which, ha ha, I gave to a character in Lola's story — and I tend to play with bracelets and break them. Also, my wrists are approximately the size of a toddler's. Stupid wrists.

• Devious Expression

What can I say? I like mischief-makers! (Ah hem, Robin Hood and Peter Pan.)

• Bluebird

But I have always wished for that one-with-nature thing. Though I like to think of it more as a superhero power than a sweetie-pie characteristic!

Now I'm curious about those of you here who also still like princesses. If you're interested, please create one and email the image to me under the subject-heading PRINCESS (steph AT stephanieperkins.com).

There are tons of fabulous choices. The only sucky thing is the usual sucky thing, in that there's only one body shape. BOO TO ONE BODY SHAPE. But if you're still interested, the last step of the princess-making process includes choosing a background. Please pick the white background, so that I can see your princess clearly.

Give your princess a name (your own name is ideal, of course), and I'll post an army of your princesses later this week!

In the meantime . . . I must leave this blog to fall in love with a new prince.

EDITED TO ADD, FROM MY COMMENTS: "Actually, you can pick from 2 bodies - the buttons at the top of the page with eyes and lips." Cool! Thanks, Ruthie! I wish there were more than two, though.



  1. Actually, you can pick from 2 bodies - the buttons at the top of the page with eyes and lips. THIS IS SO FUN! :)

  2. I've always wanted to be a princess. :D

  3. This is so fun! I'll send you my princess after I'm done!

  4. Anonymous4:03 PM GMT-5

    I just sent you mine! This is so much fun!

    And the pretending part... I do it all the time, even at home when I'm alone making lunch, I'm doing it for my non existent husband, lol *blushes for the insanity of the confession she just made*

  5. Thanks for this post--making a princess was fun :) And I still play pretend too . . . Mostly by daydreaming that I'm doing exciting things in exotic locales instead of sitting in this or that class or working on this or that assignment.

    Also, your method writing sounds intense. Good luck with your current project!

  6. Oh no, this is too fun... You're dangerous!

  7. Are your eyes green? My nephew has a theory that your favorite color is your eye color, unless you have brown then you get to pick your own.

  8. This was too much fun! I've sent you mine. :)

    I still pretend, possibly a lot more than is healthy. I make up ALL KINDS of stories when I'm bored or alone or when I should be doing anything else.

    @Connie Onnie - My eyes are green and my favorite color is blue. :)

  9. Oh my goodness Steph. We are such kindred spirits. And here I thought I was the only one who method wrote. Or who sinks into my own imaginary world whenever possible.

    One time my husband caught me talking to myself. He'd had to take a phone call and we were waiting for our food at a restaurant. So I imagined there was a newspaper reporter at the table, interviewing me--and apparently lost track of which was the reality. He still teases me about it. Which is why I'm so grateful I get to write when he's at work. I'd NEVER life it down if he witnessed certain aspects of my writing process. ;)

    Off to make my princess now!

  10. That's fun! When we got our wrists measured for bracelets for my wedding my wrist was the same size as my 3 year old nieces so I feel you there:) anxiously awaiting Lola!

  11. I own 2 tiaras. I spent most of the ages 11-13 fantasizing about marrying Prince William. I'm glad it never happened. He didn't age well.

    And all this talk about Isla's boy has me all dance-y and squee-y. Oh, this book is going to be AH-MAZING!

  12. It's so cool that you Method Write. I've never heard of that before but it sounds really helpful. Anyway, I can't wait to read about Cricket. And more about Isla! She falls in love with Josh, right? Because, I mean, she HAS to. ;)

  13. as another redhead, i always wanted a redheaded disney princess--ariel came along just a year or two too late. i also wish gisele had been around when i was growing up!

  14. I think everyone does an idealized version of themselves on princess-maker, and in their stories. Until they get tired of it and want to branch out

  15. I love your princess! I want to make one!

  16. Hahaha I have to admit that I had fun creating this princess while serving as a distraction from homework.

  17. Yes, I believe you are truly a kindred spirit, a whole lot of awesome fun kindred spirit! *skips off to become a princess* Yippee!

  18. I made a princess and she was awesome! The perfect way to end a Monday.

    (Shhhhh...most of the time, I am imagining I am not really where I am...shhhh...and not really doing what I am doing.....)


  19. This whole post makes me very happy that my books tend to have less kissing and more blowing things up.

  20. I totally get what your saying. Short version of the story... My early teenage years were not the best, to say the least but I was lucky enough to have a few very like minded and creative friends. We started writing stories for each other and would exchange them. Normally the stories were about our much cooler future selves and our future boyfriends. Mine happened to be Corey Haim (he had great hair). It was a lot of fun and it helped keep our minds off of the day to day drama (and sometimes torment) of being an unpopular teen. I've always been thankful for my crazy imagination, its gotten me through a lot.
    Okay, I'm going to go make my princess now! :)

  21. Oh my goodness, how darling! Thanks for this post:); tis too fun for words! I will have to share this with my teen gals at the library when we get together. We're thinking of doing a reading circle with your first book. Some have read it but would be willing to do so again!

  22. Ok, for the first time I'm commenting before having read the entire post......I just have to say that YES! Pretending is awesome, and I hope I never grow out of it! : ) My son and I were talking the other day and he said something about LARPing.....I said, we used to call that PRETENDING! Anyway, I have to go read to small children, I will finish your wonderful post as soon as I can. Thanks Stephanie!

  23. I am so glad I am not the only person who lives in her head like that! Reading too many books + 9 hour journeys with parents = overactive imagination. Apparently in swimming pools I used to do the Ariel Hair flip complete with "Aaaahah" singing. But mostly I pretended to be a pirate (there is a photo of me at 4 years old in a flower print dress and an eyepath with a hook for a hand). I think going to performing arts camp didn't help me grow out of it "Go to Dinner Dress as a Ninja and randomnly pretend to be a tree along the way?" "Yeah why not." Love it when pretend pays off :)

    Also, very Psyched for Lola and her wigs!

  24. Delurking because I'm SO WITH YOU on the bracelet thing! It drives me crazy because I love bangles, but if I attempt to wear them they fly off and whack people in the head.

    (Also, I love Anna and am so excited for Lola and this is one of my favourite blogs. *fangirls*)

  25. Hi Stephanie, great post! I'm not an aspiring writer myself but I love the idea of method writing. Sounds very helpful.

    I hope you don't mind but I did a post on Princess Maker and the three different princesses I made over on my blog. Here's the link.

    Thanks for sharing! I have way too much fun making avatars. :)

  26. Ohhh I spent wayyy too long making my princess! I had to create a better Princess Ariel because I was never fond of the one that shares my name.

  27. Okay, I made a princess, but she ended up looking more like she was going out for cocktails with Don Draper circa 1964, and just happened to bring along a tiara and a butterfly. What does this say about me?

  28. Oh the Princess game was so much fun! I loved it.

    Also glad so many people also still play make believe :) I was doing it today when I was cleaning the kitchen - far more fun that way!

  29. hey i made mine but i dont know how to send it! how do i attatch it to an email? anyone?

  30. I plan to fall in love with ISLA's boy too. And I am also in love with Etienne and Cricket. Which makes me a polygamist.

  31. Steph, the draft I just finished was like that. I had dreams about the boy, and the MC's problems kept me up at night. It's a rough way to write something.

    And the princess thing was totally fun. Thanks!

  32. Oh my goodness, I have finally caught up! I have been reading your blog from the beginning for the last month. Now we are BFFs if you didn't know. My favorite part of reading the entirety of you blog has been the long scraggly post-it note list that I have been storing in my kindle cover of your awesome book recommendations. Little did I realize you have an entire section in your "extras". It was still fun to jot down books as I went. I also couldn't believe it when I realized who Jarrod is (Gred & Forge) and that you guys are Nerdfighters. So many different parts of my life all here on your blog! I loved Anna and can't wait for Lola. Excited to read your blog in real time now. That is all, carry on.

  33. Oh I just loved this post for every possible reason! Apart from the Isla talk, and the possibility of finally becoming a princess (yay!), I loved the character stuff at the start. I do the same thing! I even cut/style my hair like my female characters to get a better feel for the way they move and fidget! (Is this weird? Hmm...)

  34. Hi, this doesn't have much to do with your blog post, really, but I sent you an email about it and noticed that you suggested commenting on your blog instead. I'd like to ask you to join National Cow Week 2011. It's a quirky holiday that my friend Olivia and I are organizing. We're getting a bunch of bloggers together to write posts about cows for this strange event, and it would be really cool if you would join us. There's more information here: link. Thank you!