Sunday, October 20, 2013

Help me I-70! You're my only hope!

A small business owner, a teacher, and a grad student walk into a...car to go to a writer's conference. (Almost had you there, didn't I?) Each had a complicated piece of technology, a general idea, and one even had printed maps to lead them to their destination. All of them had been there before. Two of them several times. How could things POSSIBLY go wrong?

The trip started off well enough that afternoon. No racing out of town from shadowy figures trying to kill them, no wracking their brains for a way to blow up the asteroid before Earth was sent into the next ice age. Just cruising at 70mph north hoping they hadn't forgotten to pack something vital, like deodorant or earrings.

They hit Big City #1 stop and stop and go rush hour traffic just in time to accelerate the arthritis in the driver's hands by two years, but it could have been worse. When she almost missed the exit lane because of backed-up traffic, a nice lady let them in and the guy behind didn't rear-end them when the driver stopped too quickly. Finally, they were safely on I-70 and off to their next destination: supper with Aunt L and Uncle B in (evil sounding music) Nemesis, MO.

You see, there's this town off of I-70 (which shall remain nameless, but if you know the area of which I speak, you'll know) that contains a black vortex that not only scrambles the signals of satellites to $200 tablet locator maps and $400 Garmin navigators, but scrambles the brains of otherwise intelligent people. Every region has one. So does every good horror movie.

So, since none of the navigation equipment was working, in order to GET to the restaurant, they had to pull out the questionable printed directions, backtrack, drive scary back roads, and fight impending car sickness. But they got there. An hour late. Not bad, but by then it was cold and raining.

The soup was good. The conversation was great. The soup was good. Was the soup mentioned? (Momma said if you don't have anything good to say....)

As the hour was late and the three travelers were tired and needed to get to their hotel in the conference city, they said their goodbyes and parted. Should have asked directions then....

What followed was a harrowing hour of  cold, dark, and rainy "Interstate exit pinball" where they thought they were going in the wrong direction, found an exit ramp/overpass to turn around, then promptly realized they were right in the first place and there were NO MORE EXITS FOR SIXTY ZILLION MORE MILES. No, Mexico was NOT their preferred destination.

Finally, after heading in the correct direction, they saw the sign for I-70, the light at the end of a long, dark, rainy tunnel. They sighed and relaxed and counted the minutes until they were snug in their warm hotel beds.

That's not the end of the story. It never is in a horror flick.

Arriving in Big City #2, location of the conference, they were greeted by heavy construction, lack of street lamps because of said construction, and hundreds of rabid football fans in monster trucks driving around like crazed teenagers. The poor paper map just couldn't convey the information the travelers needed and once again, our intrepid band got lost.

No Garmin. No map. No lights. Crazy drivers. Cold, wet, car sick, headaches, (and the driver's contacts were drying out), what were they to do?

"Hey, guys? Anyone have the number to the hotel?"

And thus Customer Service Cassie saved the day by providing the path to salvation and soon, our three travelers were happily ensconced in PJs and comforters.

What's the takeaway? Even when your characters have travels well planned out, stress, hunger, environment, and the unknown always play a factor in mucking things up. It's amazing how a person's brain DOESN'T work when we're focused on the wrong problem and not thinking out of the box. Use that in writing and your characters become more real.

Oh. And the name of the conference? "The Write Direction"