Saturday, August 15, 2015

Two Writers on the Road

I'm home from a girlfriend road trip to Branson, Missouri, with my friend Leslie, a trip filled with madcap, picaresque adventures. Well, a trip filled with the madcap, picaresque adventures that Leslie is dreaming up for the characters in her novel-in-progress. For this was a research trip, and I was invited to tag along with her: her story takes place during a girlfriend road trip, and what better girlfriend to share a practice trip than a fellow writer?

I can't reveal the details of Leslie's book, but she planned the whole itinerary with possible plot points in mind. So we needed to spend the night in Cawker City, Kansas, where we saw the world's largest ball of twine.
We were required to attend a comedy hypnosis show (what secret might a character reveal under hypnosis?), as well as other popular Branson shows such as Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede and male quartet Pierce Arrow (which had a truly great standup comic). We made a literary pilgrimage to Laura Ingalls Wilder's farm at Rocky Ridge.
For research purposes we visited some sites off the usual tourist itinerary, such as the local jail and a casino where a key scene may be set. On the way home, we found ourselves 650 feet below ground in a salt mine.
My role in the trip was just to be a companion and fellow brainstormer, so I gave my plotting muscles a great workout, as Leslie is a master plotter and inspired me to new levels of comic complexity.

I was also hoping that along the way I might stumble upon the seed that could grow into my own next book, as currently I'm in that uneasy, stressful time of groping toward The Next Idea.

I didn't find one. At least I don't think I did. But if a future book should call for a scene at the world's largest ball of twine, or involve a character's obsession with Little House on the Prairie, or benefit from familiarity with the mining of salt, I'm ready. I tried to pay extra attention to the children we saw on on the trip, monitoring their moments of joy or discomfort at all they were experiencing.

A new idea will come. It always does, enriched by all the humdrum - and wonderfully bizarre- things we do as we wait for the well to fill up again. This past week mine filled up mightily.

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