Get Out of the Way

I didn’t pay the car much attention until it served off the road. The sun was out and no other cars were to be seen on that mile long stretch. In the 4th grade, I knew next to nothing about cars but this one was red, low to the ground, and filled with high school boys. At least, I later assumed they were high school boys.

walking to ballet class from mom's apartment
walking to ballet class from mom's apartment

Our road had no sidewalks. Houses sat an acre back on one side. A ditch and a cow pasture were on the other. The road had no shoulders, but it was easy enough to step into the grass when cars came by–not that many cars ever came by.

My step-sister wasn’t with me, which means it must have been one of those months that my step-mother had take off and so I had to walk home from the bus stop alone. It was a 15 minute walk.

The car swerved and I had to leap out of the way. Books spilled from my bag and I sprawled on the grass. I didn’t look back at them because I didn’t want to see if they were laughing. Not that I could’ve seen them through the tinted windows. The grass was torn from a tire and I waited a moment in the grass, listening for the sound of the car turning around. It didn’t. It was gone and I picked up my things and went home.

I told myself it must’ve been an accident.

Writing a novel is not an accident. We sit down and have a plan. Some of us have more detailed plans than others, but we still know we are going to write. Some of us may want to hit a few people with our novel. Whack them this way and that to get back at them for wrongs and hurts. Maybe just give them a good scare–see what I can do?

I find revenge writing gets in the way of the story. But that’s me. More often I feel like I’m the driver and the character on the side of the road. In each story I have to decide if I’m going to get out of the way, stand there wide-eyed, or stare the oncoming driver down. I have to decide if I’m swerving, going back to try again, or driving on by like a nicer soul.

Now that I think more about it, I wonder about the other characters in the car. Who is convincing the driver to do what? Whose idea is it to swerve? Who laughs and who cringes? After all, you might be sitting alone at your desk, but there are a lot of voices in your head. Which voice do you listen to?

3 thoughts on “Get Out of the Way

  1. I don’t know if this follows your metaphor… but I think writing the novel is like walking down the road. what you find along the way is the story.

    In my stories, I find I jump out of the way to be safe from that collision. But what would happen if I didn’t? Would I find my super power? Would I stop the car in it’s tracks or fly out of the way. Would the car chicken out and end up in a ditch? Would it pass right through me as a dream? As insubstantial as fear?

  2. [Ooooh, snowfall! Me likes!]

    Wondering about the other characters in the car is what a mature writer does. Beginning writers tend to recognize and acknowledge only themselves, lying there in the grass, dignity scattered everywhere.

    Knowing WHICH of those other characters to attend to, I dunno. It’s a mystery to me. In the first draft of the WIP, I was amazed by which character turned out to have the most sympathetic and in many ways most significant POV. In retrospect, and not to be too mystical and psychic about it, I think it was exactly the fact that I was looking the other way that enabled him to flourish. I gave him the gift of my inattention. šŸ™‚

    (Welcome back!)

  3. Agreed. I have been having crazy experiences lately which led me to compose about four opening lines for novels. All with their own story, all with possibilities, and all with hope that I will once again feel like writing for me.

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