The Tombstone Game

Ever hear of the tombstone game? I read about it in a book.

How it works is that you ask someone randomly what they want on their tombstone. Tell them to really think about it because these are the words they will be remembered by forever. Their answer is apparently their goal or belief in life and it's what they aspire to be.

So one might say, "A fun guy."

Regardless of what they say, it probably won't surprise you and will be easy to remember. I look at my friends with this info in the back of my mind. He wants respect. She wants friends. She wants to be happy. He wants to be remembered. She wants to make a difference. He wants to touch lives.

Now what do you do with this information? Lots. My fav is to bring it back up to make their day. In the case of my example, when this "fun" guy does something fun, you toss the compliment out, "Wow, you are so much fun to be with." and bang! It's amazing how they beam and warm up to you!!!

So I use this a lot... sometimes to get my way. Sorry, but magic works that way. My own little magical whispers.

And this week I started using it on my characters. I know each one well, I thought he'd want this or that, it would be easy. But it wasn't. Because this goal we set ourselves is deep and this is what we really want but it's like an impossible goal only we know how to live by. So here are a few examples I pulled from my WIPs:

  • My guy who lost his memories said all he wanted on his tombstone was "lived a happy moment". I was shocked because he runs around helping everyone and is nuts about finding out about his past... yet knowing what his own goal is, changed the ending because now I know why he does that, and I just have to give him one happy moment to remember. I can do that. 
  • My one character born into a dark family, well, I knew he didn't want to be evil, but what would he put on his tombstone? "You only have to save one." And really, it made sense. He believes he will save himself by saving his father. 
  • So the father? He's just nasty. What did he want? "Finally Free." Wow. That's right, the entire book his goal is to die. (immortals are weird that way.)
I learnt so much about my characters-- about as much as I learnt about my friends-- with this little experiment.

So what would you like on your tombstone? Think about it, because it might change what you do today. 


Raquel Byrnes said...

Not sure its magic, but it sure looks effective. Cool idea!
Edge of Your Seat Stories

Tanya Lynne Reimer said...

Ha! Did I let "magic" slip in there... gee, guess what I want on my tombstone.

Richard Hughes said...

What a powerful tool for understanding people and characters. What's written on their tombstone would be a theme running through their lives.

Denise Covey said...

Reminds me of the three-sentence tagline for a novel...condense, condense, condense.

Thanks Tanya, for commenting on my blog post about Australia on Richard's blog.


Tanya Lynne Reimer said...

Richard, exactly. Try it out, I was impressed how well it worked.

Yup Denise, sum up your life in a few words... can't condense any more than that! lol. Thanks for sharing your awesome post on Richard's blog, it made me eager to go visit!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

What an interesting approach to knowing your characters. Cool!

Suzi said...

Hmmm. That's interesting. I'll have to think about that for my characters too.

Anonymous said...

Very deep, Tanya. You always weave magic!