Thursday, November 4, 2010

(something like) Near-death experiences

Over the summer we talked about using The Method to get into the spirit of WIPs.

At that time I was working on WIP2, a SciFi in which the MC is trying to escape a hostage situation. There are times when she either fears for her life, or at the very least experiences some serious anxiety.

To get in that mindset after spending hours with my two hilarious little cherubs who were home full-time enjoying the heck outta summer vacation (!), I'd channel my inner Marlon Brando and try to feel the way I felt the one of two times I ...

OK, to say I "feared for my LIFE" would be a bit dramatic. Let's just say, I felt that cold fear in the pit of my stomach that said, "This could get a whole lot worse before it gets better..."

Time #1:
Catherine was three months old and we still lived in Indy. We were at a Christmas party in Carmel (suburb to the north) where JRM was part of the musical entertainment. I left to go home, nurse the baby, get some rest, and inadvertently left my cell phone in JRM's suit pocket.

Oh, well! No worries, Indy's a grid and I knew where I was going, right?

Problem: the low fuel light was on in the car, I was at least 10 miles from home, and it was the middle of a snowstorm.

Now I grew up in south Louisiana--Baton Rouge--and we don't get much snow there (if any). And when we do, it just sort of flies around like chicken feathers for an hour and we're all high on life for another ten years.

I had no clue that when it really snows, the snow sticks to the street signs, completely obscuring them and making it very easy to get lost. Carmel is not a grid, and before long, I had no idea where I was in a snowstorm and a sputtering car.

At one point, I actually got out of the car and banged on the door of a house (no one answered) before trudging back and getting in the car to stare out the windshield at the whiteness. In despair, I put my head down on the steering wheel and prayed. I was freaking out, and I felt...

The Feeling.

[I wound up with a nice little Christmas miracle. Right when I lifted my head, I noticed a green street sign (miraculously) not covered in snow that had an arrow pointing to a school that was the landmark for Meridian Street/U.S. 31, which ran a few blocks parallel to North College, which was the street where we lived.]

Time #2:
JRM and I had traveled to one of his lawyer conferences in San Francisco, and for fun, we rented a car and drove through wine country, up the coast to Mendocino where we spent the night.

JRM has always talked fondly of that little village on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, and we got a room at the MacCallum House. It was really beautiful and romantic...

Well, when it came time to drive back, rather than taking the same road back down, JRM got out the map and plotted us a "quicker route."  (That's always the way it starts, right?)

We had plenty of gas this time, the only problem was the makers of the travel atlas we used clearly had never driven in the mountains of northern California. We headed out in the direction the map said would lead us to the highway we sought optimistic, happy, refreshed...

Then we passed a green sign that said "highway ends 20 feet." And it did! Dumped us right out on a narrow, gravel road in the middle of the redwoods. We looked at our phones--zero cell service.

No worries! JRM assured me. We'll keep going and hook up with "our" road in about 12 miles--see it here on the map? LTM: (smiling) OK!

We drove on and the gravel road got narrower and narrower until we were literally on a one-lane trail, winding through the mountains looking out across treetops and hoping a logging truck wasn't headed our way in the opposite direction.

Relief! After a few miles we started passing hand-written notes on the side of the road listing the highway number we sought.

We were undeterred that they were written in marker and posted on what looked like paint stirrers... It was going to work out! We weren't going to freeze to death or end up eating each other to survive!

After 12 more miles, three more signs, and still no road, JRM made the executive decision to turn the car around and go back the way we came. LTM: (not smiling) OK!

So we turned around and headed back... until we came to a fork in the road.

You see, along the way other, identical little roads had been joining the main one from up the mountain, down the mtn, around the mtn...

JRM: Did we come from up there or over there?
LTM: (swallows knot in throat) I don't remember... I wasn't looking.

Then we looked at the little hand-written signs and realized they were written with the exact penmanship of a Serial Killer. I looked at my cell phone again--still no service.

LTM: Try going to the right.
JRM: I'm not sure that's the direction we came...
LTM: Just try it.

So we did. Then we came to another fork. And the same situation.

At that point, JRM got out of the car and walked a little ways ahead of us on the path and stood looking into the woods. I sat in the car watching him, thinking of my two baby girls at home, wishing he were a little fatter, and feeling...

The Feeling.

...

Obviously, we got out of that one. Another miracle, this time not at Christmas. JRM managed to spot a trash heap he remembered on the way in and got us back on the correct road and ultimately back to Mendocino where we got on the established route back to San Francisco.

Several months later we heard a news story about a couple who froze to death after getting lost in the woods of northern California in the wintertime. We looked at each other and for a second I again remembered...

The Feeling.
***

So that's one way The Method helps us writers. And I'd love to hear any stories you guys have to share! Continued good luck to all the Nanners and Revisers. I'm hard at work with the latter group.

Until Monday--have a great weekend! <3

27 comments:

Candyland said...

Oh yikes! I know all about Indiana snow:)

Anne said...

Eek! Okay I LOLed at the serial killer handwritten notes but yikes! How scary.

Vicki Rocho said...

I would have u-turned at the first handwritten note! ack.

Matthew Rush said...

You must be talking about fear.

Old Kitty said...

Spooky stuff!! My fear of cars and driving in them are confirmed! :-)
I guess for me it's not wanting to remember the moments when I was so stressed my heart leapt out of my body and ran away!!! But this is exactly why these moments are great to remember when writing! The intensity of the moment is unique and hopefull I'm able to capture it in words. Take care
x

Pam said...

I'm thankful I don't know "The Feeling"....have never really been there. Unfortunately the one I can summon far too often is that of loss :o( And yes, I too LOL'd at the serial killer handwriting.

Summer Ross said...

Wow! Thos could make some great story starters. Thanks for posting this. I've had a few of these myself...mainly with my two girls.

When my youngest was six months old, I put her to bed in her carrier for the night. She had a runny nose and coughed but no fever. I gave her a bottle and went to bed. I woke at 6am the next morning thinking something was very wrong but I didn't know what. I rushed into my kids room and she layed there in the carrier cryiong with no tears and no sound. I thought- oh my god I'm such a bad mom- I picked her up to hold her and notice her tongue was all cracked inside her mouth! I felt....

(needless to say she was dehydrated really bad- went to hospital- she had collapsed veins- from then on we always make sure she has water in bed.)

Melissa said...

Yikes! I know the feeling your talking about. These moments would make for a good attention to a story on their own.

Patti said...

Yes, I've had that feeling and those both sound like scarey experiences.

Joann Swanson said...

Oh man, I know that feeling all too well! A thick fog swallowed me up one night while I was driving on a narrow, two-lane road right next to a lake. One wrong turn and it would've been a nice big splash. I still flinch when I think about it.

Ellen aka Ella said...

Great use of THE METHOD!I was 16, my parents were managers of Drive-In theatre, They were an hour away. I had the night off from my job. I found a neighbor gal, to hang out with. She was 5yr old than me. We decided to go walk on around the Sears Island. We checked the newspaper for local listings,for the tide.I took our family pet,Misty with us. We parked n' walk across the causeway/sand bar to the island, about 1/2 a ml. We had been walking for awhile,I realized I didn't leave a note. No one knew where I was.I start to get this gut feeling,nervous; I think we need to head back."No", she says, "we must be almost there." I said,"Okay, we walk a bit more,if I see this point, then we aren't 1/2 way and we need to turn around." It also appears the tide is coming. Had we read the wrong newspaper? I start to get that feeling, again. I insist we turn around now and start to run. You can't run on most Maine beaches; they are rocky. We finally reach the causeway, water is across. She doesn't think it is that high. We venture out, I have the poodle under one arm;one arm around her waist.We have heard there is a strong current. We get water up to our navels and now she admits to me,she can't swim. I start to panic,We need to turn around. I look down we aren't on the cause way sand. The current is pulling us off. We also were past the 1/2 way point. We walk over sideways, til we reach the causeway. The water is now down to our mid thighs. I felt so happy,when we finally reach my vehicle.Soaked in salt water,we climbed in. Misty was fine, my friend started to laugh,"Now you have a great adventure to tell." I'm not finding this funny, we could have died. I did tell my parents, they were shocked and said, people's vehicles have been tipped over trying to cross. Some people have drown. I'm happy to say, there is a bridge built over there now. I still remember every time I visit that haunting night and how lucky we were.

Carolyn Abiad said...

"Serial killer" signs? :D

I won't even start about all the times I've had "the feeling"...

Jennie Bailey said...

Your stories gave me The Feeling! Yikes! My brother and I were driving back from San Diego when the fog rolled in so thick, you couldn't see anything in front of you. There is marshy land on the side of one area we had to go through and I kept thinking we were veering too far toward it. The freeway winds through there so you can't just drive in a straight line. When you can't even see the pavement...he told me to lean back and shut my eyes. I kept saying aren't you scared? He laughed at me. When we finally got home, he admitted to me that he had been shaking the whole time and didn't think he could get us through it. I got The Feeling all over again!

Hart Johnson said...

..."the exact penmanship of a SERIAL KILLER!"

*falls over* BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Isn't it crazy how worked up you can get yourself? My parents atlas has a nice little short cut in Washington that we took on the way to the Oregon Coast one Spring Break... looked like it would save us about 30 miles, as we were on a windy road and worse, stuck behind a slow-moving semi we couldn't pass, so we took it. Not gravel. MUD. Rain storm. Cliff on one side. Ruts.

We kept going (my stepdad NEVER turns back--my friend Tammy was with us. We clung to each other for dear life... we made it BACK to the main highway eventually... right behind the damn semi that had stayed on the main road.... The altas is now marked with a big 'NO!'

Did I tell you about the time I let the cocaine dealers convince me to lend them money when I was 22 and moving to Portland? That one probably needs a blog. Trouble is, I never recognize just how badly wrong something could go until after the fact... My sense of denial is powerful...

Julie Musil said...

Oh my gosh! I can't believe you had those experiences, but like they say, nothing is wasted. Now you get to use it to your advantage. Love the part about the signs, written in marker, on paint stirrers, by a serial killer.

Good luck with those revisions!

LTM said...

LOVE hearing your stories--many of you I've emailed back. Some have that "no reply" thang goin on~ :D

@Pam--loss is also a useful emotion, although... I'm sorry. :o\ <3

@Summer--oh! Baby stories are beyond me. I can't handle them... but again, it's emotion you can use. Glad all's well! <3

@Mel--well, you know, you just never know when you can use this stuff. I'll be writing along and... Hey! :o)

@Julie--it's the truth! And you know, sometimes just details will get you started down the rabbit hole... who wrote those signs? why? etc. :o) <3

Jan Markley said...

Interesting that both your times involved driving. It's the old adage, 'write what you feel!'

Clarissa Draper said...

Those are great examples of how to write with the Method and using feelings. I'm going to keep this in mind when I write today.

CD

DEZMOND said...

ah, your story made me even more excited about snow :) November is usually the month when the first snow falls in my country, can't wait :) It's THE FEELING :)

Patricia Stoltey said...

I spent most of my younger years in Illinois and then another 16 in Indiana. Driving home from work in a blizzard one time, I was scared half out of my wits because I literally could not see where the road was ... until that little "ping" went off in my brain and prompted me to get my sunglasses out of the glove compartment and put them on. It worked. I could see enough to keep me on the road.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today for Stephen Tremp's guest post. I hope you'll come back often.

LTM said...

C--Yay for writing inspiration! It's true, Jan~

I miss snow, too, Dez & Patricia! :o)

Stephen Tremp said...

I got lost hiking once. 100 degree heat, mountain lions, no water. Nobody else around. A few hours later I found a housing track at the top of a bluff. Had to climb it and jump some fences. I emerged about a mile from where I parked so I must have walked in circles part of the time. I had THAT FEELING that day.

LTM said...

@Stephen--whoa. See, THAT'S why I never go hiking--I would SO get lost. Like in two steps. But mtn lions??? :D glad you made it out~

Creepy Query Girl said...

Oh 'the feeling'. gulp. Mine all have to do with my kids. When my two year old had convulsions from a fever. when my four year old dissapeared for an hour and I was absolutely convinced she was kidnapped (she was hiding under a bed. I thought my hubby had already looked because he's the one who told me she'd been missing since I left to go grocery shopping). I do not like 'the feeling'.:)

Lydia Kang said...

Such chilling stories! I've had enough of those feelings to last a lifetime. The scary thing is the ones to come you don't know about yet!

RaShelle said...

Leigh - Gotta love the feeling. It's funny you blogged about this. I did too AND I even mentioned THE FEELING BY NAME. Plus, I hadn't read your blog yet. I'm a little freaked out, actually. I think I latched onto your feeling about THE FEELING and ran with it. Especially when I got it right before I was pulled over. LOL
=D

Jen Daiker said...

I enjoyed reading everyone's comments and agree with them, especially Vicki's! U-turning!

It's been awhile since I've stopped by, but now that I've written my novel for NaNo I can be more attentive to my buddies!

You've been missed :)