Writing Wrongs

December 27, 2004

“Argh, Mommy! There’s a restroom right there and she doesn’t go in.”

After a few hours of playing Zoo Tycoon, my son Andrew discovered the button to click to see what guests think of your zoo, the animals, the smell, and all the rest. This particular guest couldn’t find the restroom, and the red, “angry face” rating was driving Andrew crazy.

Finally, he plunked a restroom down right in front of the guest, essentially blocking her path.

“She still didn’t go in. Mommy!”

“Shh. Don’t worry about her. Work on your zoo. Look, Lion 3 just gave birth.”

No doubt we’re missing a level of sophistication of play with Andrew’s zoo. His design is convoluted. He’s constantly making adjustments. He’s no tycoon.

But the paths are crowded with visitors and his zoo is making money.

It occurred to me that with a zoo, like writing, you have to account for the basics. Your animals need to be well cared for and happy. Your guests need places to sit, to eat, and yes, even to relieve themselves. The rest? Who knows? I’m not sure the meticulously planned zoo with esthetically pleasing topiary beats one created with a love of animals and a child’s imagination.

Either way, not everyone will like your zoo. And even if you commit the literary equivalent of plunking a restroom down in front of a critic, not everyone will like your writing.

Andrew’s zoo is under constant expansion (since his animals are happy and busy procreating). He decided to place a carousel and a petting zoo on a ledge at the top of a long flight of stairs. The attractions sit there precariously, flirting with the edge and a considerable drop.

“Do you need a fence?” I asked.

He shook his head. “People don’t walk there,” he said, indicating the edge. “No one’s that dumb.”

Obviously he has never participated in a writing critique group.

Despite the peril, and logic, these attractions are a tidy profit center.

Go figure.

You can’t please everyone, and you don’t have to be a tycoon to have fun, or reap rewards.

But if your hyenas laugh, and the carousel plays in the background, and most of your guests can find the restroom, maybe that’s enough.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 9:56 a.m.