Monday, December 5, 2011

Observations: from the real world to the written page


Writers often are told to observe their surroundings, to follow people, to watch and study… and write it down. What’s that person’s story? Where is that woman going? Where has that man been? Why are her eyes red? How did he get that scar?

Recently, I found myself at a birthday party for the friend of one of my sons. While watching him play and eat cake, I met some parents I’d not seen before… and gathered some fascinating material for stories… not material about the people themselves, but odd facts they’d gathered. For instance, I overheard one father talking about insects’ imperviousness to drowning. Apparently, try to drown a fly, keep it under water for an hour, and the insect will appear dead, but actually its metabolism just shuts down and the bug, after drying out, will fly away. Fascinating. Also, did you know red-tailed hawks can fly faster than 200 mph and form a spiral shape while diving? Great topics for a young boy’s birthday party, right?

Nonetheless, the conversations are tucked away, perhaps fodder for inclusion in future stories. I would never had guessed I’d get writing ideas at a birthday party. But that’s one wonderful aspect of life and writing: surprises and revelations can appear when you least expect them.

Also... Walmart. I was there the other day and saw a character. A woman with a florescent pink stripe in her hair, which perfectly matched her shit, riding a scooter-cart: I couldn't imagine it better! Of course, if I looked in the mirror right now, I'd also see a character! Grubby, nubby green hoodie, bell bottom jeans that don't quite fit, bags beneath my eyes... and a smile on my face!

By the way, my book signing at  NoFo last weekend was fabulous! Friends dropped by to say hello, I got to chat with my publisher over a delicious NoFo brunch with the sweetest, freshest fruit... and books were sold!

NoFo has some fantastic Christmas merchandise... and (ahem) books... for sale!


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