Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Writer's Imagination

As writers we want to cultivate our imaginations. There are lots of ways to do this. Nearly every book on writing and creativity can tell you how. I usually don’t have a problem in this area. My imagination can run wild at the drop of a hat. Sometimes this isn’t a good thing.

Like when Peter was having surgery on his foot. What if he has some heart defect we don’t know about? What if he throws a blood clot? What if the anesthesiologist didn’t get a good night sleep and gives Peter the wrong dose? Notice all of these scenarios pretty much end in Peter’s death? Not a good thing. I seriously had to rein my brain in while I was in the waiting room.

On the other hand, some situations just lend themselves to good musings, especially for a suspense writer. Like what happened to me about six weeks ago. I was taking my daughter to a specialist (she’s been having some hearing problems) in the middle of the valley, nearly an hour away.

I get on the freeway and they’re doing construction, the concrete K-rails blocking the right shoulder. The person in front of me abruptly changes lanes. I see why.

Someone’s tire, rim and all, is sitting in my lane. I can’t get over either direction. I hit it. Immediately a grinding noise comes from the back and the steering gets squirrelly. Luckily, the car doesn’t slew too far out of control. The K-rails end so I can pull to the shoulder.

After telling my daughter to stay belted in, I get out to see the damage. I expect to see the backend of the minivan disintegrated. Nope, just the back tire, a gash through the sidewall and split wheel cover. No way it can be repaired.

I get back in and call AAA but it’ll be 90 minutes. Her appointment is in 30. She can’t miss it. I look in the back. There’s the spare and the jack. Okay, looks like I’m changing the tire.

Of course I’m wearing nice clothes.

I get the tire and jack out, looking pointedly at the cars passing me on the freeway. Hello, helpless female here. Is chivalry dead? Okay, I’m not really helpless; I can change a tire. But I don’t want to. I really don’t want to mess up my clothes.

I sigh and resign myself to changing the tire. And while I’m doing this, I’m thinking, “Hmm, I’m very vulnerable here.” And I start wondering how I could use this. The villain could do something to cause the heroine’s tire to go flat, either through sabotage or by putting something in the road.

I get a couple lug nuts off as I mull this over. Then I look at the tire iron. It would be a great weapon. It’s got this little hinge on the end. It’s mostly straight, but the socket that fits on the lug nuts connects to the bar with a hinge. This is so you can get the lug nuts at any angle, but can only turn the bar 180 degrees without having to pull it back in the other direction.

So I’m thinking, okay. A villain does something so my heroine has a flat tire in a very inopportune place. Maybe she’s in a bad cell area. Then, when she’s bent over, changing the tire, with no method of escape other than on foot, he comes after her.

Aha, but she’s got the tire iron. She can swing it and that little hinge piece will work like the end of a whip, cracking him across the temple. Even if he brings his arm up to block her blow, she’ll still break his wrist. Either way, it works.

I’m contemplating this as the last lug nut pops free. Then, someone drives up. I’m wary. But I’ve got my tire iron. It’s a minivan, though, the same make as mine. Not sure too many criminal masterminds drive minivans.

The guy gets out.

I say, “Hey, I needed you here five minutes ago. Before I got the lug nuts off.”

He doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t think I’m funny.

Well, bummer. Anyhow, he gets the spare tire on, one of those mini tires that you’re not supposed to drive very fast or very far on. He’s also got a better tire iron in his car, the kind you can spin. So he gets the lug nuts back on faster. Five minutes and he’s done.

I thank him and we leave. I wipe my hands on the ubiquitous fast food napkins in my car. Aside from some grit in my sandals, I didn’t get dirty. My daughter makes her appointment, only five minutes late. And I have a nugget that might actually make its way into a book.


Malia Spencer said...

Not fun about the tire but I love the fact anything can inspire writing and creativity, especially a weapon!

It'll be interesting to see what book the tire iron makes it into. If not Hometown Heroes surely something else? :)

michael snyder said...

Funny thing, I just happened to be in AZ (in the valley) about six weeks ago and was going to stop and help some lady in nice clothes change a tire on her minivan...but she had this crazed, writerly look in her eye and the most menacing grip on a tire iron. So I got scared and kept on driving. What a coincidence, eh?

Jennifer Tiszai said...

Mike, you are such a brat (and I mean that in the kindest way possible). Just wait until you get your next crit back. Talk about a crazed, writerly look.

But, hey, the tire iron thing worked, didn't it? Yep, that's one scary piece of metal.

Robin Caroll said...

I find inspiration for writing in everything...but most often in the hassles. Good for you in getting them! LOL

Jenny said...

Ideas come at the strangest times.
Like when I'm getting my nails done. And the tech is attaching the little rhinestone in place and all of a sudden I have this idea for a espionage thriller and...hey, wait a minute, isn't this the type of comment I should be leaving on Mike's blog? :-)
Abundant blessings!
PS And I like the new pic, too. But then I've yet to see you take a bad one.

Dineen A. Miller said...

Okay, you're not gonna tell this to your "normal" friends, right? They might commit you. Or just give you weird looks like mine do. LOL!

Love your creativity!

Jennifer Tiszai said...

Hmm, do I have any normal friends? A few. No, they don't get it. They still think I'm going to be rich if I ever sell a book. Ha! Yeah, we all know the truth about that.

I learned my lesson in first grade when I told my teacher about all the voices I heard in my head. She sent me to the principal's office. My poor husband, though, has to listen to all my ramblings. But he's only half-normal.

I do think this ability to translate nearly any situation into a "what if" is what sets us apart from normals. Hey, why not turn life's frustrations into your character's frustrations? Makes them good for something anyway.

michael snyder said...

Maybe we should all put our heads together and write a serial story where this chick(lit) shows up to get her nails done. Then after they decide on some funky anagrammed color that only means something to other chick(lits), the gum-smacking nail doer launches into an impromptu and mean-spirited critique of our heroines latest novel. Then one of them grabs the tire iron...

Okay, maybe not.

Didn't Tonya Harding's boyfriend ust a tire iron?

Jennifer Tiszai said...

You know, that sounds like an Italo Calvino novel. Extra points for anyone who knows who he is. But I think the story is missing a clairvoyant basset hound.

And was it a tire iron or a lead pipe? Can't remember. Either way, my knee hurts just thinking about it.

Jenny said...

Think you could get Tonya to star in the made for TV movie?

Oh, and Jen, please tell me I'm not one of your normal friends....PLEASE! I couldn't bear it if I thought you thought I was normal! :-)
Abundant blessings!

Jennifer Tiszai said...

Jenny, you normal? You've gotta be kidding. How could you even think such a thing! I don't think any normal people read my blog. :)

Anonymous said...




Sabrina L. Fox said...

Mortimer huh? Hmmm. What if we hijack this blog. We could talk all football. GO COLTS! You with me Morty?

Jennifer Tiszai said...

Hey, it's my blog and I'll sulk if I want to.

Besides, Murray agrees with me, like all good guitar players do. I already have Captain Feathersword, Dorothy the Dinosaur, and Wags the Dog with me. Jeff is nearly on my side, but he fell asleep before I could get an answer.

And everyone knows USC stands for the University of Spoiled Children. The Univ. of California system is far superior (well, we won't talk about their football teams).

Jada's Gigi said...

So this is where inspiration comes from...No wonder it rarley stirkes me...lol I'm far too practical to be indulging in "what ifs" unless I'm trying to make a big decision,,,,then it seems every door is a "what if". Kinda fun to hear how its done though. :)

Jenny said...

Don't worry, Jen, I've got your back (and I can hear Leslie Gore humming It's My Party in the background).

Abundant blessings!

Sabrina L. Fox said...

Leslie Gore?? Is she Al's daughter?

Mary said...

I love how every single thing in this life is bigger and brighter and much more exciting through a writer's eyes!
Great post!

Heather said...

That's me and my overactive imagination. Makes life more fun, but more paranoid, as well. And then there are my strange dreams and nightmares. My husband now asks what strange dream I had last night.

Gina said...

I'm visiting from the carnival! Great post. I never lack the ideas or motivation to write, just the time! Sigh! That's why I'm a Writer...Interrupted!

CHickey said...

Imagination! What a gift!

Jennifer said...

It's true. Everything can be "used." Too bad the guy didn't think you were funny. Maybe you should've tried out the tire iron on him.