My husband and sometime collaborator (or cohort in crime), Larry K. Collins, is my guest blogger this week. Hope you enjoy his unique point of view.
Nora Ephron once said that being a writer was like being a wallflower at an orgy. While all those around you are having a good time, you’re standing nearby taking notes.
I’ve found that to be true. As a writer, I observe differently. Every person, event or situation can become fodder for my next novel.
My work in theme park construction provided excellent training in how to view things differently. I’ll explain using an actual event.
One day while working at Universal Studios Hollywood, I found myself trapped on the upper level of the Jurassic Park Show Building with the ride in full operation. Every thirty seconds, a boat containing twenty-five guests would pass my hidden location. As soon as one vehicle disappeared from sight, another would enter the scene. However, escape was relatively easy once you were familiar with guest mentality. No rider, who is not in the entertainment industry, ever looks back!
After the boat passed, I stepped out onto the emergency egress path adjacent to the stream and followed. I was about three feet behind the raft and could easily have tapped a rider in the last row on the shoulder. I had to pause a moment to let the Dilophosaurus (spitter) finish spraying the guests with pseudo-poison. Then, as they stared ahead at the menacing T-Rex and began the eighty-five foot drop out of the building, I exited unseen through a backstage door.
Of course, since I’ve built several attractions, when I’m riding, I always look forward and back. Now, when I ride, I’m noting where they hid the speakers and lights, how the effects and gags are done, and the quality of the scenery. Good effects still impress me, but I don’t appreciate shoddy workmanship.
My enjoyment has not decreased; I just see it differently. I’m still and will always be a theme park junkie.
The same happens with writing.
Sometimes, nearly forgotten memories from personal experiences will appear in my writing. Skinny-dipping off Molokai took thirty-five years to show up in a story of newlyweds on a honeymoon on Maui. I had the incident stored in my memory banks just waiting for use.
More often, I’ll see a person or witness an event and think, “Boy that would make a good story.”
My book Lakeview Park developed from observing interesting people during noontime walks around a local park in Orange County, California.
One day, I saw an old man in crisp white pants, starched shirt, and yachting cap seated next to a young boy in a ragged tee-shirt and cutoff jeans. Each was sailing a radio-controlled model sailboat in the small lake. They looked to be from two different worlds, and yet they laughed together as they shared a common interest. From this brief observation came an imagined story of how they met in “Alex”.
When I watched caregivers lovingly attending to patients in the nursing home where my mother-in-law lived for five years, I said to myself, “I want to write about the devotion and care that these strangers perform, often unrecognized and unrewarded.” Several stories in Lakeview Park, including “George” and “Alex,” were enhanced by these observations.
People and events that cross my path each day become stories to set down on paper. Perhaps being a wallflower at an orgy isn’t such a bad place to be, especially for a writer.