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Writing Journal: Memory and Imagination

Seattle is dimmed today, gray and blue, and comforter clouds are sliding in a solid cottony mass to the northeast. There are rumors of snow to the north and south of us, a mere sprinkle. Wait. Can snow sprinkle? My precipitation words are rain words. Fall, slash, drizzle, pour, drip, patter, hiss, splash, deluge.

Across from us, on the far side of the block, construction workers are outfitting a tall black office tower as luxury apartments. They’ve been at it for about a year, and yet there are only a few of them working. Progress is painfully slow. When our neighbors arrive we’ll see them inside their units, in miniature, walking around like living Polly Pocket dolls. And I suppose that means they’ll see us too. The city is always evolving, and we must evolve along with it or become grumpy grandpa Simpson. Maybe I’ll make one of those big window messages out of sticky notes.

HELLO

or

WELCOME

or

PUT ON SOME DAMN PANTS

Chasing Inspiration

Yesterday was a good writing day. I worked on Hostile Takeover for half the day, then I got started on Nathan’s Folly. Certainly I’d be more efficient if I worked on one thing at a time, but most days I have the project I’d decided to work on today and the project that looks shiny and fun.

Why not both?

My creativity as a child. She hates being pinned down into doing just one thing. First the slide, then the monkeybars. There’s a trick to making work feel like play, and it begins with letting loose.

Memory and Imagination

My protagonist in Nathan’s Folly is a pilot, 26 years old, returned to the states at the end of the Vietnam war. Yesterday, while writing about his journey to the island in his little Cessna float plane, I enjoyed remembering the sensation of what it was like to fly.

When I was in high school, as part of a JROTC program, I completed private pilot ground school and flew Cessnas for 20 hours. So I remember feeling the intense vibration of the engine, catching the struts in my peripheral vision, and the way the raindrops twitched and pushed their way to the sides of the windshield under force of thrust. I remember turning the round plastic trim tab, like a big plastic cookie turned on it’s edge. The wild strangeness of “steering” with my feet during takeoff. The primitive mechanical whir of flaps lowering during the descent.

Mostly, I remember thinking “There are no off ramps up here.”

Ren Wycroft feels real to me after a single chapter. And I wonder: do our best characters arise from a point of realism? Perhaps we embody them in a sense, like an actor embodies a role. And maybe that’s why there needs to be a connection, something felt, to make that person alive in our minds. In the same way that Kat grew out of my HR years, and Ellie grew out of memories of my late mother-in-law, I can write about Ren, someone with a life completely different than my own, because down beneath the fiction there’s a place where we connected in memory.

An old memory of flying a Cessna on a rainy afternoon.