Writers - Living in an Alternate Reality
The other day my husband said to me that he noticed a home in our community looked abandoned. He takes our dog for a walk all around the park early every morning and he hadn't lately seen any cars there or activity. I started to take notice of the same thing after he mentioned it. The tenants aren't behind on their lot rent or anything, a payment was made online on the first of the month. But still...no cars. No one coming or going. No lights on at night. Just the porch light, which is on all day and all night. So...where are they? Are they on vacation? For almost a month? They don't have the kind of funds necessary for something like that. Are they in there? Have they all been murdered in their sleep? And if they're not in there, where did they go? Did they have to leave town, sneaking out in the middle of the night? Is there a body in there?
Do you plot out the deaths of your friends and co-workers or complete strangers in the grocery store just for the fun of it? I mean, just the logistical part of it?
Do you create back-stories in your head about everyone you meet? I'm convinced that certain people in our neighborhood had the same last name before they got married. Maybe I've just seen Flowers in the Attic too many times. I go through each and every newly vacated home in our community (part of my job, I'm not a creeper) like a CSI agent examining a crime scene. Even a drive to the Dollar Store becomes an adventure when you're a writer.
Recently, HULU started streaming one of my favorite old TV shows; NYPD Blue. I adored the series back then and I'm enjoying it even more now. The writing was tight. The characters were real. One early episode featured the character Andy Sipowicz encountering a childhood acquaintance named Jimmy Socks. Of course that wasn't the guy's real name, but that's what they'd called him when they were kids, because his feet always smelled so bad. As I'm watching those scenes with Jimmy Socks I start thinking about the kid in my kindergarten class picture who was picking her nose. The writers sparked a memory of mine by bringing up the memory of a character. Brilliant.
That guy who cut me off in traffic yesterday afternoon? He met a grisly fate later that night in a book I'm working on.
Do you watch people? I mean, really watch them? And listen to them? The friend that pronounces nuclear, "nucular", and the one who sniffles when she's nervous? The guy you know who always to be singing to himself when you walk in on him? The couple next door who are always yelling at each other, or the guy who practices his guitar really early on Saturday mornings? I have whole mental files on people; their voices, mannerisms, the ways they walk or words they use over and over.
I would love to know who the real Jimmy Socks was, because I know there was some kid whose feet stunk enough to stick in some writer's mind for decades.
To a writer, every neighbor is a potential cross-dressing serial killer with bodies buried under their home; and for someone like me who lives in a trailer park, how convenient is that? Just lift up the underpinning, crawl under the trailer and dig away out of sight of prying eyes!
Okay, I gotta go....
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