When I’m working on a novel, ideas rise up at random times from the murk of my subconscious like pronouncements in a Magic 8 ball. If I don’t write them down right away, these ephemeral thoughts can fade and disappear.
Driving my 14-year-old son, Hayden, to summer camp in Maine on Sunday, I put him to work as both a DJ and a scribe. (After all, I was the chauffeur.) He selected a Green Day song from his new i-Pod touch (an 8th-grade graduation present from an indulgent grandmother), then I was allowed a song by The Fray; he picked Ben Folds, I chose Dar Williams. Every now and then I asked him to open my writing journal – a wire-bound, college-ruled notebook with a green plastic cover – and scribble a line:
Sea air in Galway
Fiction chooses the writer
Breath on the glass
Sea air in Galway. The Maine coastline in similar, in many ways, to the west coast of Ireland, 2500 miles to the east. With this note I was reminding myself to pay particular attention to the sensory details; I thought I might be able to use these impressions in a scene in my novel.
Fiction chooses the writer. This idea for a blog post sprung from an ongoing conversation with several novelists about how and why people start writing fiction.
Breath on the glass. As we drove in the rain, I saw Hayden turn his head to look out the passenger window at two guys on a motorcycle, both without helmets, grimacing into the downpour. Hayden’s breath fogged the glass. When he turned back to me, saying, “Wow, Mom, what were they thinking?” – I glanced over again, and saw that his breath had already evaporated. And the guys on the bike were gone.
That’s how it is with these fleeting observations, and why I asked Hayden to keep a pen handy and the notebook on his lap. And he was happy to do it – as long as he could listen to Metallica and I promised to get him to Bar Harbor on time.