Thursday, May 7, 2009

Distracted or Focused?

As a writer, maybe I get a little too involved or preoccupied with a story running through my mind. I personally like to think I am focused. It helps with the sting of embarrassing moments.

This can lead to some pretty awkward situations. I don’t know how many times I have gotten that far away look in my eyes when someone in the family has said, “Uh oh, she’s thinking again.” I have found my son waving his arms in front of me calling out, “Mom, Mom, are you there? You’re thinking about a book, aren’t you?”

One late evening I sat at work down in the Temple cafeteria. People had cleared the dining room for the evening and we were getting ready to close for the night with only minutes to go.

I work with a man who has an extensive knowledge of the great outdoors and since I would soon be leaving to go home and write for a time, my thoughts had turned to some questions I wanted to ask him about a mountainous area.

He had walked out to the cash register, in case anyone did come in those final minutes, I would be then be available to help him or her. I proceeded to tell him I wanted to bury someone alive. Now obviously if she was buried too deep, there would be no oxygen from the soil and she would die. I only wanted her MOSTLY dead…. if the Princess Bride taught me anything, it is that there is a big difference between dead, and mostly dead. Anyway if she was buried alive closer to the surface, she could fight her way out and live. But again, I want her mostly dead and unable to free herself. What did he suggest? Perhaps, locking her in a wood box at a cabin would work better? That was my alternative option. Before he could advise me on the conditions, I heard a gasp behind me. I was so enthralled with explaining how I wanted this lady mostly dead, I never heard a patron walk up behind me. There are no words to explain the look of horror on her face when she heard me express how this lady must be mostly dead and could not fight her way out of being buried alive. I learned several valuable lessons that day the very biggest being that I should be wise enough to pick my topics of conversation in the Temple. It was inappropriate, I realize, but at the time, I thought it was perfectly innocent. I now know better. It wasn’t one that invites the Spirit and I was wrong. I had to explain very quickly to this lady why I was asking about the outdoor terrain but as she walked away, I wasn’t entirely convinced that she believed that our conversation was all in the name of research.

Upon researching mechanical affixation my husband asked what I was doing. I told him I was learning about burying someone alive. He looked at me with shock and shook his head. “You scare me sometimes, you really do,” he said. Yeah well, if it helps any, I scare me too.

While writing my third book, since it took place in Denmark, I suddenly had this huge interest in names and where they originated. Again, at work, I looked over many name tags and asked of their history. I learned quite a bit of interesting facts about names that people loved to share. One day I noticed a common name but her tag said LE Coordinator on it. I asked if she spoke French. The Temple has several languages spoken there and I was impressed that this good sister knew French. Upon my asking about her speaking this language, she looked at me as if I were from another planet. After a far too lengthy pause and a strange look, she asked, “Why would you ask me that?” Wasn’t the answer obvious? “Your tag says, “Le coordinataire,” I replied with a French flair. She looked at me and burst out laughing. Then she told me what it stands for. She was a Living Endowment Coordinator. She said, “That’s so funny! Can I go tell the other sisters?” All I could think of was, “Yes, please go tell them all and make sure they know it was me making a tremendous fool of myself.” Seconds later I heard an entire table burst out laughing. What I wouldn’t have given for the ground to open up and swallow me whole.

Research. Pondering. Visions. (Watching the story play out in our heads) What we don’t do to put a story together to get it down just right on paper. We watch shows, read up on books, research topics on the Internet, and even ask police officers questions that no one else would consider asking (like how to sell street drugs and not get caught- yeah I did that too. Try that one and see the reaction you get!)

We do some pretty strange things, all for the love of writing. But maybe, just maybe, I get a little too caught up in things when a story goes running through my mind.


Jennie said...

Jeri, that was one thing I liked about working at the library. I could ask any co-worker anything and they would jump right in to give me all kinds of fascinating details. Most were way beyond finding any question odd. The funny thing is, I've found most people are anxious to answer all kinds of questions and volunteer more info than I ask for if they know I'm a writer. While writing Ruby I got some wonderful information from some mule farm owners in California that I picked to query from googling until I found their web page. I've picked up a lot of information from various law inforcement officers; most are eager to help. I've questioned a pilot, a pharmacist, a car dealer, children of various ages, people from various states and countries, other writers, etc., but never an LE Coordinator though I've gotten to be a pretty good friend to a couple of them.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Jeri, you're just doing your homework. ;) Once when I was collecting information for a book in Star Valley, Wyoming, I was congratulated for doing just that. A well-known LDS author had written a science-fiction novel a few years before with the setting in Star Valley. Long story short, this author made the mistake of including a scene that involved a large crop of corn. Guess what they can't grow in Star Valley, Wyoming?!!! ;) They gave this author a really bad time when he journeyed up that way to do a fireside. =D

Moral of the story: always ask questions. It makes for a better story.

Valerie said...

Jeri, what a great story, both really, but the burying someone alive story just made me laugh. I can imagine how easy it is to lapse into conversations at "work" although your workplace means a lot of fairly normal-type conversations that might take place elsewhere don't work as well in the temple. I would need to be careful even with editing stories since they often imply some racy double meanings. Oops.

Still, good to know you have a mind that still works and you're putting it to good use in magnifying your talents. Isn't that pretty important?

Hope you and your family are doing well this week and that you had a fun Mother's Day.