Home again…with ideas

Posted: April 28th, 2009 under the writing life.
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One really good thing about train travel is terrain.  Lots and lots of terrain.  Some of it isn’t useful for these books (south Texas brush country) but some will be (desert, mountains, sandstorms, grassland…)   In a car, I have to keep the car on the road and notice terrain and plants and wildlife only very peripherally (except the wildlife driving the other cars and trucks.)   In a train…though I can’t control where we go or how fast, I also don’t have to worry about it–there are tracks, and someone up front with their hands on the controls.  (Or so I’m told.)

So…some of the places we went were wonderful book-places for later.     Just trundling past them made story-stuff rise up, all bubbly and ready to grow.   So was some of the weather.   We were halted by a bridge repair out in the desert somewhere between Marfa and El Paso, with I-10 visible in the distance to the north,  in a big wide basin with mountains ahead, behind, and far to the north and south.    We were there several hours watching storms gather and move towards us…we could see rain falling, a light brush of it, and then coming closer and closer…and ahead, where we would be going when we moved, a thick cloud that wasn’t rain.  Ibbirun the Sandlord produced an excellent little sandstorm, lifting the sand into a big ugly cloud at least 60-100 feet high…the train was buttoned up, doors and windows closed, but there was still that characteristic smell and tingle that I instantly remembered from long ago, when we were caught in a sandstorm while driving.    We had seen dust devils earlier in the day, but this…very story-generating, though not all the stories generated fit into the Paksworld.

When they weren’t, I had the laptop and the train supplied power.  The story progressed.   I had headphones and a CD player.  You might not think Yo Yo Ma playing Bach, while outside is a large desert basin with mountains in the distance, would be a good motivator for Paksworld fiction, but it does very well.   I realized what was wrong with the first chapter, for instance, and was able to write almost all the new part.  Unfortunately, I also realized that what is now four chapters needs to become…a lot less.   And I’m not ready to cut that part, until I’ve written farther beyond it, to be sure that it’s Too Much Information about something not that plotworthy.

California, alas, was not much use in generating story–at least, nothing useful for Paksworld stories.   Los Angeles is too developed; where we stayed was too modern, etc.   Union Station had character, but only for writing train stories.  But on the train back…though it was the same scenery, we were going the other way…the time of day was different; the weather was different.    As when I was a child, and on the train or being driven somewhere, I could easily look at the landscape and imagine myself in it, riding or hiking or being in some grand adventure.  And if I could imagine myself…so also characters.

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