Monday, October 4, 2010

This doll won’t beat me

Did you ever have someone impersonate you? One day this friend of mine, Geri, was doing her impression of people those gathered had in common. Her facial expressions, style of voice and – this is the important one – her diction was hilarious. She boiled people down to their comic essence. Which I laughed at until someone said, “do Michael.” At which point I laughed even more. I’m a bland white guy from the suburbs. There’s nothing there. You’d have better luck taking a run at copier paper or salt.

Then, of course, Geri did me. Dead on. My mannerisms, my twitchy face and my expressions. “Fascinating” and “Have fun.” She nailed me in less than ten words.

I let all this slide to the back of my head until last night, when I saw this commercial for the new Fisher-Price Little Mommy Play All Day Doll. It’s got 50 phrases. 50! I did a rough count, and I think I’ve got like 14.

We all have a little quiver of phrases we can draw and fire without much thought. Our pet phrases. I listen for them all the time, because they make characters more real when added to dialogue. I also try to keep my own out of my writing. The last thing I want is every character sounding like me. Now I’m on a crusade to expand my repertoire of phrases. From now on, if someone asks “How are you doing?” I will answer, “I’ll get back to you.” For “have a good one” I’m going to reply “maybe even two.” Certain phrases are invaluable: “Seemed like a good idea at the time” needs to stay. But that’s OK. No, no . . . that’s smashing. Because the goal is to get above 50. I can’t go around calling myself a writer if that $34 robot baby has more to say than I do.

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