Tag Archives: novelist

When Games Aren’t Just Games

j0179010I read the coolest article Friday about Game Theory and cheating at college. Peter Nonacs, a UCLA professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department, wrote an article about an experiment he conducted in one of his classes.

Let me start by saying if I had known this was even a field of study when I was in college, I probably wouldn’t have been a business major. 🙂 Fascinating stuff! While I don’t know much more about Game Theory than what is presented in the article, and what I can infer from personal experience, you can bet I’m going to read up on it!

Why? Because I’m a novelist. I write stories about people. And I particularly love to write stories about people who are learning to live together and merge two lives into one. (Commonly known as “romance novels.” 😉 )

Let me quote Professor Nonacs directly so you can understand what Game Theory is about.

Much of evolution and natural selection can be summarized in three short words: “Life is games.” In any game, the object is to win—be that defined as leaving the most genes in the next generation, getting the best grade on a midterm, or successfully inculcating critical thinking into your students. An entire field of study, Game Theory, is devoted to mathematically describing the games that nature plays.  Games can determine why ant colonies do what they do, how viruses evolve to exploit hosts, or how human societies organize and function.

j0289307Most of my life, I’ve been learning to compete – be first in my class, get the boy, win the race, get the promotion, get to the next red light first.

So how do you reconcile that with sharing a life? Giving the bigger slice of pizza to him, taking turns to pick the movie, telling her she’s beautiful when she’s sick.

After 23 years of marriage (can you believe we hit that mark next week?!), I’ll tell you what I’ve learned. The key to a happy and successful marriage is to have fun. So if evolutionary biology suggests that “life is games,” I can assure you that making the marriage game fun is the way to win. Winning, in this case, means making it to the “till death do us part” finish line without resorting to cheats like murder or suicide. 😉

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that maybe you’d find some of my marriage stories fun and funny. I’ve published articles before that revolve around our married life, and the new superhero series I’m writing – The Adventures of Lewis and Clarke – is about how two people with two totally different lives learn to braid them together.

So starting next week, I’m introducing a new column on Mondays – Marriage Madness. Sets just the right tone, don’t you think? My dual goals will be to make you laugh and make you think that maybe marriage isn’t such a bad thing. 😛

Meanwhile, I think you should read the article on Game Theory. It might open your eyes to how life is operating around you. Maybe even make you think about making some changes to the way you’re playing.

Are Novelists As Good As Songwriters?

I’ve been watching “The Voice” on TV since the season started, and I’m surprised to find it difficult to get up and walk away. I’m not a big reality show fan, but I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with dreams coming true. As they interview the hopefuls, I hear so many heartwarming – or heart-wrenching – stories, and I want nearly all the people to win.

Part of it is because of the songs these artists choose to sing. Songs that have made me feel something in the past – hope, joy, sacrifice, humor, a push to be someone better. Somewhere out there, a writer wrote a couple dozen lines of poetry or prose that, when coupled with the right music, pushes the buttons inside me. How did they do that?

And my bigger question – how can I do that?

Inevitably, I think, “You should’ve been a songwriter, Kitty. Those are the writers who are changing the world.”

But then I thought about the book I’m reading right now, Donovan’s Bed by my friend Debra Mullins. I bought it because the Kindle sample made me laugh several times. That’s what I often look for in a book. Then I had a really hard day and desperately wanted an escape. I read the book for an hour or two before I went to sleep and I forgot all about my problems. Even slept moderately well, which hasn’t been happening all that much the last few months.

The next day, to get ready for writing, I put on my headphones and listened to my “I Can Do This” playlist on my iPod. Songs that make me  happy like “Hollywood” by Collective Soul. Songs that make me love being in love like “Smile” by Uncle Kracker. Songs that help me stick to my dreams like “The Climb” by Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus. Songs that express what I need like “Revelation” by Third Day. I always feel better when I listen to these. Always.

Then another hard day, and a night of trying really hard not to cry myself to sleep. I’m tough. Other people have much worse circumstances. I can get through this. And still the tears made my pillow cold in the dark.

I reached for my Kindle and opened up Donovan’s Bed again. A girl who is determined to rebuild her reputation, and to have a career at a time when many women don’t. A man who recognizes that a career woman won’t fill his needs for children and homestyle cooking, but thinks she’s so cute that he can’t help but tease her. And a whole book of these adorable people making me completely forget my troubles.

At one point, I stopped reading and stared at the ceiling in surprise. I’d forgotten – this is what I wanted to do with my writing. I wanted people to forget their troubles for a little while. I wanted to entertain them, fill them with hope and joy, make them yearn to be a better person.

Exactly what music does for me.

So which one is better? Should I want to be a songwriter or a novelist? A song can cut to the heart quickly and make you feel immediately. A book can make you feel happy and sad and scared and excited for hours.

That’s what good music and good stories do. They make me want to be a better person, with a more complete, abundant life. I want to write stories that do that for other people. Maybe all artists are insecure and vulnerable in this area. It’s not like accounting – there isn’t one right answer, and you don’t hear much about whether you’re doing things “right” or even well. Just ask any of the artists who weren’t chosen to continue on “The Voice.”

You can only keep trying, keep working. And I guess that’s what life is all about for all of us.

What do you think? Do you prefer music or books? Or does it depend on the circumstance? I’m really interested in your opinion. 🙂