Having completed my third suspense novel, I email the manuscript to my publisher and immediately dive into another. Protagonist and Antagonist are identified; storyboard template is filled out; character arcs are described; beginning and end are imagined. Now to the sizzling dialogue…
“Where are you taking me?” Protagonist says.
“To the dessert.” Antagonist smiles gleefully. “I’m going to leave you for the coyotes and scorpions.”
“Cliché,” I tell myself. Right up there with the villain chaining the swooning heroine to a train track.
I hit backspace then begin again.
“I’m going to haul your sorry ass to the local gravel pit and leave you tied to a backhoe—”
“Wait,” I interrupt. “Where is the gravel pit? And is it even possible to tie someone to a backhoe?”
Trouble is, I wouldn’t know a backhoe if it ran over my foot. Besides, what time of day – or night – must my bad guy take his captive to the gravel pit without risking discovery? What if the gravel pit has a night watchman?
Frustrated, I again jab my index finger onto the backspace key and hold it down.
“So,” my Internal Writerly-Parent says, “…if you’re supposed to write about stuff you know, and you don’t know anything about gravel pits or backhoes, maybe you should, oh I don’t know, LEARN?”
“Why the sarcasm?” I whine.
“Because sure as the Creator made green onions, you’ll say stupid stuff about gravel pits and backhoes out of ignorance. Remember how disgusted Pop was when that old television series Rawhide portrayed cattle drives in which Hollywood’s version of cowboys drove the cattle at a run, whipping them into a frenzy? Born in 1919, and a veteran of a couple of cattle drives himself, Pop said by the time those cattle got to market, all the fat would be run right off them; they’d not bring nearly as much money as their heftier, slower brethren and sister-en. The point wasn’t to get to market as fast as possible, but to get there with the fattest cattle possible. A real cattle drive would cover only about eight miles per day. While Readers might ignore one small gaffe, they won’t tolerate—”
“Field trip,” I yelp as enlightenment dawns.
“Great idea,” Snarky Internal Writerly-Parent says. “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Ever-obliging, Google gives me directions to a local gravel pit, along with hours of operation and a phone number. A young woman answers on the third ring.
“Sure,” she says, “…come on out. We’re open until five.”
By the time the day ends, I not only know where the gravel pit is located and what it looks like, I have answers to important questions such as how many entrances there are; if the front gate’s locked after hours; if anyone is there at night; what security measures are in place; how much area it covers, and how many people it employs. I’ll even be given an up-close look at a backhoe.
I enthusiastically thank the young female employee, hustle home, plop myself into my office chair, and boot up my laptop.
“I’m going to haul your sorry ass to the gravel pit and chain you to a backhoe’s steering wheel. Tomorrow’s a holiday and the place is closed on weekends. It’s so isolated, you can scream your head off; it’ll be days before you’re found. By then, I’ll be sipping Mojitos in the Caribbean.”
That’s more like it.