**I did not receive any compensation from the Nerf company for the use of Nerf guns in this post.**
It’s all about the symbolism, right? The thematic statement of your story. Just think about what a Nerf gun can represent – war, peace, hatred, love – deep stuff. But primal, which is what you want.
Let’s use an example of two teens, Alex and Julie. Picture this: The Nerf gun lies on the floor. Forgotten. The two teens arrive home from a party where Julie’s best friend flirted with Alex. And he’d flirted back. Tensions are running high. As they march through the door, Alex trips over a small trinket on the floor. A nerf gun. The symbol of their upcoming battle. Very subtle but will sink into the subconscious of your reader.
Subtext is important. You know, all that stuff that is really happening in your scenes but no one is talking about.
So, let’s go back to Alex and Julie. Same scene. Julie is pissed. They enter the house, but instead of fighting and tripping over the Nerf gun, it lies on the kitchen counter. With stiff, jerky movements, Julie uses her domestic expertise to cook up a bag of microwave popcorn. With kernels popping in the background, Alex nervously talks about the Nerf gun. I’m not sure what exactly he’d say about it – maybe he always wanted a Nerf gun when he was in 3rd grade and now, he always wants things he can’t have. Scarred for life. But really, he’s not talking about the Nerf gun but Julie’s friend. Julie lets the popcorn burn.
Foreshadowing is all the cool elements you scatter through out Act I that hint to what will happen in the future.
Okay, Alex and Julie. Maybe two days before the party where Alex flirts with Julie’s best friend, Alex is fooling around with the Nerf gun (because of his traumatic past) and he shoots it and accidentally knocks over a framed picture of them. The picture falls to the floor and the glass shatters. Uh-oh. Not looking good. (I realize that’s not very subtle, but you get the point. Cut me some slack.)
Even a serious story can use a bit of humor.
Same scene. Except this time, the Nerf gun isn’t even in the room. Alex and Julie storm into the house. Julie burns the popcorn. As she’s bringing it over to slam on the counter in front of Alex; her pesky little brother, who wants to be a secret agent, aims and shoots. His orange Nerf dart pierces the air thick with tension. Julie, who thought her pesky little brother was at Grandma’s, jumps and spills the popcorn everywhere. Instead of fighting, Julie and Alex start a food fight with her brother and end up laughing. The fight put off. For now.
We all want three-dimensional characters in our story.
Think about Alex’s long and complicated history or backstory when it comes to Nerf guns. As a writer, if I weave that fascinating tidbit about Alex’s childhood earlier into the story, then the power of the Nerf gun in this scene will triple fold. All of sudden, the reader will empathize (or not) with Alex for flirting with Julie’s friend. Or we’ll feel for Julie and hope she tells Alex to suck it up and move on. Either way, you have character with deeper motivations for their actions and dialogue.
- Nerf guns will not date your story. I think they’ll be around for a while.
- Sensory details – the pop, pop, pop.
- Colors: The nice sunshine yellow of the gun, the orange darts, the red laser.
- Nostalgia: Boys reading your story probably had a Nerf gun at one point in their life and will remember those days and like your story even more. Girls will remember when their annoying brothers kept hitting them in the face, making the symbolism and humor even greater.
**I would like to dedicate this post to my kids’ Aunt Susan and Uncle Philip who gifted our family with a set of Nerf guns in December.**
What are some other benefits of including Nerf guns in your story?