Monday, May 10, 2010

Traveling and Writing

Before we begin today's post, guess what! (Well, I'll just tell you.) Jane Friedman of the land of Fantastica put my Google Reader Roundup in her Best Tweets post this week in its own category! Love you Jane! (She is, of course, now on my secret BFF list.)

Forgive me for not remembering, but I saw somewhere some time ago (in a land far, far away) that traveling is one of the great refreshers of the mind, and especially for writers. I couldn't agree more about this, but I'll add that you almost have to do it to actually understand it. Meaning, you don't know the hole you're in until you get out and see that you were in it!

For writers, this is especially true. Traveling allows you to experience new things and new people and open your mind to everything outside of you. And sometimes, it can give you ready-made scenes. Case in point: my experience yesterday in Marietta, Georgia, which is a cute little town outside of Atlanta.

Marietta must be a very crime-free, safe city indeed. Mr. Sierra (as I shall now refer to my husband) and I met some friends for lunch there, and as we were walking back to our super-cute black VW bug rental car, we noticed a police car stopped in the middle of the street, with its lights flashing. No police officers were in the car. In-ter-esting, thinks I, that they would just stop in the middle like that, causing cars to go around it and generally holding up traffic (not like Marietta has a ton of traffic, but there were enough in the city square area). I thought there was a bloody, hacked-body-limbs crime scene that the officer had rushed into. You know, something that would very much necessitate such a leave-your-car-in-the-middle-of-the-street maneuver.

As we reached our super-cute black bug, two police officers got in their car and began driving up the street. As it reached our car, a woman criss-crossed the street to hail it, waving her arms. The police car stopped immediately.

"What was all that about?" she asked the police officer through his open window. Her tone was pretty angry, which I thought was weird. The officer gets out of the car.

"Do you own a place around here?" the officer said. Now the second officer got out of the car to join his partner.

"Yes I do," the woman said, with a touch of righteous indignation.

"Well, what happened was, a husband and wife in that cafe there," said the officer. "They ordered an appetizer. The waiter served it, but the husband and wife didn't want it. The waiter said they ordered it so they had to pay for it. Then the husband found a hair in it."

I had busied myself with holding open the car door for Mr. Sierra while he got our whippersnapper in his car seat, with an ear craned toward the woman-officer conversation. I hoped the officer would cut to the part where the husband and wife had used a tommy gun to mow down the whole cafe in a bloodbath of epic Marietta proportions, or that a wee alien had exploded out of the husband's chest, or something equally interesting.

"But when we got there," said the officer, "we couldn't find a hair."

The lady walked away.

I stood there, dumbstruck that the police car had been blocking our super-cute black rental bug to tell this ludicrous story, and worse, that it had blocked traffic to run inside over a hair, and double-worse, that both officers had to get out of their car to explain the matter to a jaywalking passerby.

Now, I'm not saying Marietta's finest aren't anything but fine. I'm sure they are. I'm sure I don't know the whole story here. (I'm kind of hoping I don't.) But it was so silly and so excessive and so ready-made for a work of fiction (humorous fiction, obvi).

You see how getting out of your deep, dark writer cave can help refresh you? Even a local car trip should be able to give you new experiences, if you are willing to look for them in unexpected places.

Does anyone have any awesome travel experiences that leant themselves to fiction?


Liana Brooks said...

I love little stories like this. Most of all, because it's true. Small town cops are bored 99.9% of the time. And the other point one, the volcano is erupting in the middle of an earthquake.

Travener said...

Oh, yeah. Strange towns or quirky strangers you meet -- all grist for the mill.

Simon C. Larter said...

I don't buy it. I think you were the couple in the restaurant and you're repurposing the story to make it look as though you were innocent. You can't fool your nemesis, honey. Sheesh.

Oh, and btw? How nice for you to get a mention in Jane's Resources/References section on the same day your nemesis nabs a Best of Best slot.... BWAHAHAHAHAAAAaaa


JEM said...

Congrats on the mention! I don't know that a trip has informed my writing at this point, but I definitely draw on memories of banal experiences in high school for my current WIP.

Anne R. Allen said...

Yay Jane for recognizing (and linking to) excellence. Jane's Best Tweets is one of the top must-read blogs. And she saves you so much time wading through the Twitverse.

Love those local color stories. Amazing how they stick in your mind and pop into your fiction when you least expect it.

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