Wednesday, July 25, 2007 at 03:32 AM

by Robert Gregory Browne

Remember me?  The crazy guy on the freeway?  The one who promised to slow down?

I
have a confession to make.  Although I’ve slowed down in some respects —
I’ve temporarily retired my own blog, have carved out time every night
to read and have tried not to be in such a hurry to put the days and
weeks and months and years behind me —

— I haven’t slowed down on the
freeway. 

It’s a habit.  An addiction.  I like to drive fast.  And I
love to maneuver my rocket in a way that allows me to reach my
destination as quickly as possible.

So.

I’m on the road
the other day, headed toward a doctor’s appointment, and it suddenly
struck me how much driving the freeway is like plotting a story.

That’s right.  You heard me.  Just think about it:

You
have a goal.  You want to get somewhere.  Getting there is important to
you.  And even though you’re going in straight line, more or less, your
progress is constantly blocked by other drivers.

This, in turn, creates a series of smaller goals for you.  You
keep looking ahead, watching the road, seeking out the empty and free
flowing lane that will allow you quicker passage.  If you make it to
those smaller goals, one after another, then the overall goal — that
final destination — doesn’t seem quite as daunting.

Problem is, as you’re headed for that space in the traffic,
some idiot decides to change lanes right in front of you, forcing you
to hit the brakes or cut into a different lane.  So then you’re
thinking on your feet, changing your strategy as you go.

And, of course, there’s always one driver who seems to be in
just as much of a hurry as you are.  He may not be headed to exactly
the same place, but he’s in your way and his goal is get wherever he’s
going ahead of you.  The next thing you know you’re in a kind of race
with the guy and your emotions are rising, you’re beginning to hate the
sonofabitch so badly you want to bash his car with yours.

And the other characters around you either help you or hurt
you.  Some block your progress, while others kindly get out of your
way, making room for you to move.  There’s the lady on her cell phone
who’s paying more attention to her conversation than the road.  There’s
the GM truck with the ass so huge you can’t see past it, whose driver
has decided to go 50 MPH in the left lane.  There’s the old couple in
their motor home, and the gardener pulling a trailer full of rakes and
lawn mowers and leaf blowers.

The drivers around you begin to take on their own
personalities, some you like, some you hate.  And just when you think
you’re about to make it, everyone suddenly slows down.  There’s an
accident up ahead, or another idiot like you impeding the flow of
traffic, so as the clock continues to tick, road rage begins to set in
and you find yourself quickly reaching that good old boiling point.

But wait — there it is:  a gap in the traffic that leads to another free flowing lane.  And by god, that’s your exit up ahead!

With
a quick and decidedly clever maneuver, you just barely manage to cut
off the jerk you’ve been competing with and you’re on your way down
that ramp, headed for your final destination.

You’ve made it.  You’ve succeeded.  And while you may be a little rattled, all is good.

Helluva plot structure, eh?

Okay, okay, I know.   I’m a strange guy.  But these are the kinds of things I
think about when I’m driving.  And I’ve decided that if I base my
plots on my driving experiences, nobody will be able to put the damn
books down.

8 thoughts on “Wednesday, July 25, 2007 at 03:32 AM

  1. Alexandra Sokoloff

    The strange guy – I’m not touching.

    I do think it’s interesting that every writer I’ve ever met has a concrete metaphor for the writing process. Often multiple metaphors.

    Having trained as a stage actor/director/dancer/choreographer I tend to use choreography and production metaphors. A bit on the nose, but it works for me.

    Having driven in LA for 15 years, I like the freeway analogy just fine!

    Reply
  2. Rob Gregory Browne

    I always know where I’m going, but I rarely know how I’m going to get there. Most of the time I’m taking roads I’ve never traveled before, but I guess that’s what makes writing a book interesting…

    Reply

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