I have three stories for you. I’ll give them to you chronologically.
1) My brothers and their families came to visit us for the holidays this year and the brother who is closest to me in age stayed at our house. He and I are very close, and we lead kind of parallel lives. He’s not a writer, but he is a professional artist. We both have two kids, both have wives who make the lion’s share of the household money and who are way smarter than we are. We’re both into photography, birds, butterflies, etc.
One morning while he was staying with us, I came downstairs wearing a sweater I got last year from my in-laws. It’s blue with a high collar and a zip opening at the neck that goes down about to the chest. It’s not really a style I’d get myself, but I like it and it reminds me of my in-laws. Anyway, I go downstairs, and there’s my brother wearing a blue, high-collar sweater with a zip opening that goes down about to the chest. We laughed about it. And then he explained that he got it from his in-laws and that, while it’s not really his style, he likes it and wears it because it makes him think of them…
2) About three weeks ago, we had some nasty weather blow through the area. I mean nasty. Storms, hail, etc. We don’t get tornadoes where we live; we’re on the Cumberland Plateau, and something about the altitude kills the funnel clouds before they can form.
Except not this time. Nancy and I were standing in my office talking when we realized that we heard a really strange noise. It sounded like a steady loud roar, like a freight train. And at the same time each of us realized that though we’d never heard that sound before, we knew what it was. Sure enough, as soon as we started looking for the tornado, Nancy spotted it moving parallel to our house; not coming towards us, but going past. Turns out, it hit a forested area less than a quarter mile from our house and knocked down pretty much EVERY mature tree in an area several hundred square yards. It then crossed the highway and cut diagonally across the road leading into our subdivision. It was headed straight for the homes of two different families. But it skipped over them, took out some more trees, skipped over more houses, did a bit of damage in an adjacent neighborhood, skipped over more houses, took out some more trees, and then died out. Not a single person was hurt or killed.
3) Another weather related story: This past Thursday night it was incredibly nasty out, again. No thunderstorms this time. But torrential rain, temperatures in the thirties and gusty winds. It was like that all day Thursday and just got worse overnight.
I have one of those key fobs for my car that can lock and unlock doors, open the trunk, etc. One cool feature: If you hold down the “unlock” button for long enough, it’ll make all the windows in the car go down. Very handy on a hot summer day, when you’ve left your car in a parking lot. But not so good on a rainy winter night. Right after bringing home my younger daughter from her basketball game, I must have put my keys back in my pocket, gone back upstairs to my office to work, and sat in such a way that the unlock button on my key fob was being pressed. I had no idea. I mean, what are the chances? It’s never happened before in the three years I’ve owned the car. It didn’t happen on a cool clear evening, or even on a night when it drizzled. It happened on pretty much the coldest, rainiest night of the year.
The next morning, when we finally realized what had happened, the interior of the car was soaked. I got it dry eventually, but it was pretty much a lost morning caused by a freakish incident. (How’d I get the car dry? A combination of lots of blotting with towels, an industrial strength wet-vac borrowed from our local service station, and running the AC on max, with the heat on at the highest setting for, I kid you not, 6 and 1/2 hours while the car idled. An environmental nightmare, I know, but it saved the car from mildew hell.)
Why tell you all of this? Why post these stories on Magical Words of all places? Because we often talk about how life can be weird, but stories have to make sense. I’m not sure that I would use any of these stories in a piece of fiction. They’re too odd, too freakish; they would seem too contrived in a book or piece of short fiction. They make great real-life stories because they’re true. Turn them into fiction and no one would believe them. As a writer you can say “Well, coincidences happen,” or “sometimes fate watches out for us,” or “of course something like that only happens on a rainy night; it’s Murphy’s law.” But the fact is that in constructing stories we need to base them on something more logical than the vagaries of real life. Not always — of course you can use coincidence or fate or Murphy’s Law in your work. Just don’t rely on any one of them too heavily.
A quick note: This post comes in the midst of a massive rewrite that is demanding pretty much all my attention. I have another book coming out next week and will be blogging about that release next Monday. But I’ll get back to the “Writing Your Book” series the week after. Promise.David B. Coe http://DavidBCoe.livejournal.com http://www.DavidBCoe.com http://magicalwords.net