Sunday, January 6, 2013

Getting Lost on Purpose

Winding Road by Bobbi Jones Jones. Click on image for picture details

I read a blog post written by a high school kid a while back. In it, he wrote about how he and his friends would sometimes drive down the country roads near their homes without GPS or a map just to see where the roads would lead. He called it getting lost on purpose. The point was to see things that were familiar in a new light, to have a bit of an adventure and to renew the spirit of fun. 
            The concept is a wonderful metaphor for the way I write. I begin each novel and story with a few vague characters and some sort of ‘what if’ question. I grab a notebook and a pen, stare at the blank page for awhile and envision a scene—my romantic comedy, Afterglow, begins with India, the main character, lolling in bed while eating ice cream. It’s her way of dealing with her marital breakup. Her best friend, Eva, has had enough of India’s lolling and is determined to save her from herself. Then I try to find an opening line that will draw me, and hopefully readers, into the story. Afterglow begins with “My first affair with Cherry Garcia lasted nearly three weeks.”
            From there, I play a game of ‘what happens next?’ writing scenes based on the ones that came before. Each is a drive down a country road that is both familiar and not. The scenes wind around each other, taking new turn and bends. By the time I hit the story’s center, I’m lost in the twists. But this is my backyard, I have a general sense of where I’m headed. I’m just not exactly sure how I’ll get there. I forge forward in faith and if I stick with it, I find a road sign. I know exactly where the road leads and can see my way home clearly.
            So far, I’ve always found my way home. It isn’t always straightforward. In writing P-Town Queen, I had to retrace my steps through the last third of the book and follow a different path to get to a satisfying ending. Sometimes, though, the road sign appears like a gift and the way home is easy. Such was the case with Afterglow, where the last third of the book came together as though I’d charmed it.
            I’m just beginning a new book, starting to get caught in its twists and tangles, enjoying the old scenery made new again. I’m not completely lost yet. But when I am, I know I’ll find my way back. That’s how its always been. So far, anyway.

Afterglow comes out tomorrow!!! Here’s the blurb:

 India Othmar isn’t having a great year. Her husband of thirty-one years has left her for their son’s ex-girlfriend. Her grown children have moved home. Her best friend Eva seems determined to set her up with every oddball in their small Massachusetts town. And her most significant relationship these days is with Cherry Garcia.

But India is more resilient than she thinks. And though it will take a broken arm, a lawn littered with engine parts, some creative uses for shoes, and a scandalous love affair of her own, she learns, much to her surprise, that her life hasn’t ended with her marriage. 

Click on image for more info on the P-Town Queen


Cathy Coburn said...

What fun that was, a ride down the road of your writing

Fi said...

Great post and brilliant metaphor for finding your writing.

I start with a number of facts (or I suppose you could say disparate snapshots - a character, a what if, a place or item) and then try to meld the lot into a story.

Thanks for sharing.

Ute Carbone said...

Thanks Cathy and Fi! I do love riding down that writing road, Cathy. And Fi, your process sounds kind of like mine. This kind of writing has also been described (by Annie Lamont I think) as a Polaroid picture that develops as the story does.