Sunday, October 7, 2007
This morning, I drove 200 miles with a cracked windshield. Once I got over the worry that it was going to collapse in on me as I drove, I'd find myself looking at it and thinking of how stories get written. (Okay, backstory here--I'd been visiting my younger son at college for Family Weekend. Saturday night I took him and one of his buddies out to eat. I was reminded once again of how no one enjoys eating with more gusto than college boys who aren't paying for it. We walked back to my car to discover some hooligans had decided to wing an empty beer bottle at my windshield, leaving it with a lovely bulls-eye design. Disclaimer #1--my first words were "Holy F---!" Disclaimer #2--this was not the first time my son had heard me use such language.)
But as I looked at the cracks emanating out from the middle (the point of impact I surmised, using all my best CSI powers), I would notice how some wended one way and others a different way, but there wasn't always a logical pattern. And some of the lines criss-crossed and I'd wonder which original crack they belonged to. (Okay, it's a pretty dull drive. And there was very little traffic). I was also listening to some good storytelling music (Sugarland, Mary Chapin-Carpenter and three Springsteen CDs). I like all those artists (okay, I like the first two; I'm a complete fanatic for The Boss) and one of the things I like best about them all is the way their songs tell stories. And the stories, through details, make me wonder and think. The stories aren't neatly packaged, they aren't all tidy and happy. Sometimes they raise more questions than answers. (Stop now and go buy Springsteen's new CD, MAGIC. It's that good.)
And I thought about my WIP--which is done, but not quite. I've written the ending (which I chatted about doing a few posts ago), and am now in the "filling-in" stage. Going back and adding texture, adding layers, making sure the lines criss-cross as they should and wander out from the point of impact. I love this stage of writing a novel--I know the characters, know what caused their cracks and broken edges, know which ones have healed and which ones never will. I get to polish things up and make sure nothing collapses in on itself.
As I drove I also thought about another story--this one true, so true, as a matter of fact, that if you wrote it people wouldn't believe it. And it's full of broken edges and criss-crossed lines and things happening as they should even when the fissures are so deep as to seem insurmountable. I had Jeremy in my ninth-grade English class. And while I guessed at some of his challenges, I had no idea what he was going through. He kept a smile on and he did his work (okay, not at first, but when I explained that yes, I too believed he could play college and maybe even pro football but no matter what he needed to pass 9th grade English), and the other day when I read this in the paper I cried and smiled and thought, this is the sports story I want to hear--not about Michael Vick or steroids, but about a good kid and good people who helped him become who he is.
Stories--the true ones, the ones we make up, the songs--they all start with a single point of impact, and where the lines travel and twist and intersect is what makes each one unique. The power is often in the journey and the connections.