Friday, August 26, 2011

First an Earthquake, Now Hurricane Irene?!

Funny thing about "Acts of God." They sure make the phone ring.

Many of our relatives have been calling since Tuesday's earthquake hit us here in the Washington DC area. Now those same relatives are checking in to see if we're in the path of Hurricane Irene. I think so, by the way.

I don't think we are in any real danger of having to weather the brunt of the storm since we're inland a bit. Then again... I know enough about writing not to use one of those famous last lines that are often standard fair in movies... Right before something bad happens.

CLUELESS FRIEND (to worried friend)
Hey, relax. There's nothing to worry about. We're safe now.

WORRIED FRIEND (sniffling)
Are you sure?

CLUELESS FRIEND (smiling)
Absolutely! Everything will be fine.

WORRIED FRIEND
OK

BOOM!!!! ZAP!!!! The worried friend is incinerated by a laser beam.

Well, it usually goes something like that regardless of genre. So, I am hoping for the best, but we will prepare for the worst in case Irene is still angry when she reaches us.

List of supplies: canned food, water, candles, batteries, flashlight, first aid kit, notepads, pens and pencils, etc. Maybe it's the result of so many years working as a journalist covering news events, but I can't help but think of what sort of writing might come from this latest emergency. Guess it's a matter of perception.

Emergency = writing opportunity

Yes, I will make sure my family is safe. But after that, it's time to observe EVERYTHING with a writer's eyes. After Tuesday's earthquake, the first phone call I was on was with my wife to make sure the family was OK.

"OMG! Did you feel that?!" my wife asked.


"Yes, I did," I replied. "Is everyone OK?"


"The kids were freaking out!"


"Anyone hurt? House still standing?" I asked.


"Everyone's fine. Everything's fine."

Once we established everyone was fine, the rest of the conversation was what do you think? I'm sure like every other conversation going on at about that moment. Guess. Yep, that's right. We began narrating, retelling what had happened. We told our stories from our unique perspectives. And in the face of a frightening "Act of God" like an earthquake, we turned to humor in our retelling. In our case, humor is easy. We have kids who do the darnedest things.

I just kept asking my wife questions, and took it all in. Stuff you can't make up. It was beautiful. Rich images that are the stuff of vivid scenes in writing. Great potential for dialogue. Stressful events that brought out the true character of my children. Conflict. Obstacles. Surprising situations. Aren't these the very elements we as writers try to create in our fictional worlds?

Life = writing opportunities


Just a matter of perception.

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