For the last couple of days, I’ve been waiting for my collaborator to go through our manuscript one more time, so I found myself playing “The Sims” . . . for hours. But it wasn’t a total waste of time. I learned a few things. 🙂

What I learned about writing (and life) by playing the Sims.

  1. Interesting characters have needs. Though cheat codes can allow you to fix your Sim’s needs as “static,” meaning that they will never have to sleep, eat, use the bathroom, take a shower, interact with others, or have fun, a character who is fulfilled in all those areas is BORING.

  1. You don’t need to reveal every detail. Though the Sims game is incredibly realistic, the creators don’t show every detail. When the characters “Woohoo” or “try for baby,” for instance, they slip beneath the covers. When they take a shower, bath, or use the toilet, their intimate parts are blurred. Though details are important–characters DO have to take care of ordinary physical functions–you don’t have to reveal every detail.

  1. Sometimes characters refuse to do what you tell them to do. And at other times they will surprise you. In a Sims game, the player is a sort of demi god. He or she has the power to create Sims, endow them with personality traits, decide up on or modify the Sim’s appearance, and ordain the Sim’s living arrangements. Still, free will exists, and sometimes a Sim will put his or her foot down and refuse to obey your bidding. And at other times, they will step out and do something that leaves you breathless.

  1. Setting matters. A Sim’s moods–and his actions–are directly influenced by his or her surroundings. Same for your characters.

  1. Life goes on. When you visit one house and spend most of your time in another house, you may come back to the first house and discover that the characters have gone gray, had babies, or died. This is true of life, and it should be true of the characters in your novel. Don’t let the rest of the story world go static when your character disappears from the scene.

  1. Personality determines choices. If you are playing a Sims character who has the trait “neurotic,” you’ll discover that “check the sink” and “freak out” are two readily-available actions, activities NOT available to non-neurotic characters. In the same way, your story characters should remain true to their personalities. Even though you will push them to their limits, they should not act completely out of character.

  1. Grief should not be short-changed. When a loved one dies, all the Sims in his circle will mourn for at least two Sim days. They won’t want to have fun, they won’t want to be romantic, and they can burst into tears without any provocation. Likewise, a death in your story will affect your characters, so don’t short-change the emotional process.

  1. At least one negative trait per character makes for a more interesting story. No one wants to read about perfect people who have no problems. Even in Sims, a quirk or two makes more a much more interesting storyline.

  1. Skills must be learned by reading and practice! You can’t simply wave a magic wand and expect your Sim to be an excellent cook, an expert angler, or a best-selling writer. They have to read and practice . . . And it helps if they were born (created) with a “bent” toward that skill. (Bookworms make great writers!) The exact same thing is true in writing. You can’t sit down and write a great novel just because you have a few extra afternoons and you learned how to write in high school.

  1. The Grim Reaper shows up unexpectedly. Unfortunately, this is also true in Sim world, real life, and in the publishing business. Companies get bought out or go out of business. Books are put “out of print” after a mere year on the shelf. Entire lines of books are cancelled. You’ve worked hard and suddenly–poof! The Grim Reaper is beckoning and there’s no sense in begging, the inevitable is on its way. You might as well do what a lot of Sims do–just shake the Reaper’s hand and go on your way. Because in Sim world, like in the publishing business, you can always come back and keep typing on that computer. 🙂
And thanks to Leslee, who reminded me that I can make videos (except I can’t hear sound–maybe I’m doing something wrong, but I LOVE the sounds!) Here are two clips from last night’s game. In the first, Poppy has a baby. Poppy’s elderly husband just died, so she’s thinking of him as the baby is born. Smart Poppy–because she knows she can’t go to the hospital without a babysitter (she has other babies to think of), she runs and gets in the pool for a water birth. I did not tell her to do that.

This next one is one of my faves because it’s just so lifelike. Big sister July is trying to potty train Stormy, but he’s tired and he wants none of it. 🙂 LOL!

And this last one isn’t cute, it’s strange–somehow a few pixels got mixed up or something, and I have an odd child stuck in the middle of the toy table with his head on backward. :-/ Fortunately, he did straighten himself out when I told him to go play with the doll house instead. 🙂 Enjoy!


  1. Connie

    LOL that last one is creepy! Before the last update came out I had a toddler that deformed while watching TV – the top half was a teenager and the bottom half, sitting on the floor, was a toddler. So this toddler had gargantuan arms flailing about with tiny little legs. CREEPY!

  2. Christy--SouthernSassyGirl

    It’s been a LONG time since I played The Sims….you’ve kinda got me wanting to play again. It’s just so addicting!!

  3. Sue

    Loved your insights. #2 cracked me up so much – lol Too bad more people in real life aren’t as willing to blur their “parts” … maybe then there wouldn’t be so much trash on t.v.!

    Great post Angie!

  4. Anonymous

    Trust you to find the story value in everything you do. I think if they created a “Sims Angie”, people would find the character too complex to follow, with too much energy to keep up with! (I know, poor sentence structure!) Don’t know how you do it, but keep doing it anyway. We love the end results! Clyde

  5. k-stin

    I have had the SAME experiences with the Sims–addiction and relevance to real life! It’s a fun game!

  6. Leslie

    I’ve had a toddler not want to potty train either. It is hilarious, and so true to life.

    I like that in 3 they don’t time everything out for a short video when the character gives birth. In 2 there’d be no way to get a video of the birth.

  7. Leslie

    Here’s a giggle – I’m playing Pleasantview in Sims2 – Don Lothorio (last name should give you a clue to his personality) ended up getting engaged (hey, he wanted to be!) to the Countess Suzanne – a Vampire. They had twins. (I had to name them Edward and Alice… just had to)

    While the Countess was pregnant, Don was abducted by aliens. Poor Don. Couldn’t happen to a nicer man (cheated on his first fiance’ and broke her heart!)

    Meanwhile the Countess kept trying to bite Don. Couldn’t have that. With him determined to win over so many hearts in Pleasantview – couldn’t have him biting all of them too! I had seen that the Matchmaker had something for vampires on sale so I had the Countess purchase one. It turned out to be a cure for vampirism. *phew*

    Even when cured of vampirism, I found that the Countess was furious with Alice. Couldn’t have a mother not getting along with her children – so I moved her out.

    Interesting enough, Don Lothorio, ladies man turns out to not be a bad father. As soon as Countess moved out he was seen dancing with Alice. *Awwwww*


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