Monday, July 20, 2009

Letting Art Imitate Life

I spoke back in June about paying attention to the reality around me and injecting that into the lives of my characters. I really think there is no better research opportunity in the world than a cruise. So many people from so many places in such an odd circumstance, where the mundane parts of reality are gone and all you have left is the real stuff about them, the people they are when they don't have ten million other things going on. Plus, cruises are fun.

Unfortunately, there are some less than fun experiences in life that can be good sources of research material too. For example, last Thursday night, on my way to meet Tori and Darlene for our weekly dinner/write in/social hour, I was in a car accident.

First, I'm fine. Thank you in advance for your concern, but there's nothing to worry about. No one was hurt. My car is totaled, and that is sad, but both I and the other driver are uninjured and that's all you can reasonably hope for in a car accident.

I did notice something in the aftermath of the accident though, something that made me very happy. (Well, it made me happy later, once all the shock and adrenaline and general freaking out was past and I was capable of achieving "happy".) I had a little video recorder running in my brain the whole time, taking notes about everything that happened and everything I thought about, with the express purpose of using that information in a future novel somehow.

It made me happy because it means that I've now turned looking at life through a novelist's eye from a habit into an instinct. I didn't consciously decide to take detailed notes in my head of how the scream that came out of me when the airbags deployed sounded or what my thought process was when I finally worked up the courage to look at the damage to my car. I just did it. It was automatic and effortless, like breathing.

Now I don't have a project in the works just now that involves a car accident, but you can bet there will be one in my future. And when that project comes along, I'm reasonably confident you'll see the following little scene in there somewhere:

"I'm fine" I told the paramedic who'd come to check me over. "I broke a nail and I scraped my arm on the airbag, but I'm okay."

I confirmed that I didn't need to go to the hospital and signed the release. I listened politely while he told me where the nearest urgent care was in case I changed my mind, knowing that I wasn't taking any of it in and that I probably wouldn't need to go anyway. My injuries weren't bothering me and I was pretty sure they weren't going to.

What was bothering me was that I'd actually listed a broken nail as an injury. And I'd given it top billing, no less. Oy!

Yes, that actually happened, just like that. Yes, that is exactly what was running through my head at the time. I advise everyone who writes to start running that little video camera in their head; you can't pay a Muse for that kind of stuff.

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