Monday, April 28, 2008

Keep Your Eyes Open

I don't know what title is attached to a guy who spent 22 years in the newspaper business, a guy who wrote 'stories' nearly every day for the first 12 years and then wrote more than once a week for the last decade. A guy who's clippings fill up a couple of file drawers.

In the book business, if he's not published (yet), you call him a rookie (I loathe the word 'novice').

So, this rookie may make a few rookie mistakes along the way, but that's okay. They won't be deadly.

Say, did you know that there's a thing called "rookie stripes" at the Indy 500? At least while I was covering auto racing for seven years, during the month of practice leading up to qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 any driver who was at the Brickyard for the first time had pieces of parallel tape applied to the back of his car. The strips of tape were there to enable drivers coming up behind the car to know there was a rookie driving and to take appropriate caution.

(I think, in the last couple of years, the stripes have been dispensed with. The cars are going so fast now - over 200 mph - by the time a driver would see the rookie stripes they would already be too close.)

Wouldn't it be great to have rookie stripes in real life?

Ooops ... watch out for that advice, it comes from a rookie! Don't want to hire that plumber - look at those rookie stripes!

Anyway, you're forewarned from me.

To the point? Oh, yeah. Keep your eyes open. We live in Manhattan, so there are lots of great 'locations' as settings for scenes (as 'Law & Order' has proven on its many spinoffs). My wife and I have taken to wandering around the city, looking for a quiet place to sit. Often, I'll write while she reads a book. And, often, the setting ... wherever it is and whatever it is ... will find itself as the setting for a scene in one of my chapters.

Sure, not every place is Manhattan (Believe me, Manhattan is cool. Lots of other things, too - like dirty and noisy - but this city is really cool). But, no matter where you are, where you are has something unique about it. Use it. Color it, shape it, squeeze it, date it - who cares. But get out and write about real places. Eyeball witness adds great texture and richness to writing.

If this is a rookie observation, that's okay. Just give me a wide berth as you zip on by.



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