It was the worst sort of overhear for a mom! My daughter’s girl scout troop had headed to the beach for the night, and after packing up to leave the girls were taking a few moments on the rainy Sunday morning to visit the shops near where we had stayed.
I had gone looking for my daughter, and somehow knew, when I heard the screech, she was involved. I ran out the door of the shop and found one of her friends finishing her run across the street toward me and my daughter on the other side of the street… a terrified look in her eyes as she watched the truck slide to a stop near her.
Miraculously, no one was hurt (though my heart stopped beating long enough I thought they may have to take me
to the hospital!)
These are the moments that seem to make sense in our writing but have absolutely no meaning when you are living them. I know some people say time slows down when a crisis occurs, but to me it is more like the moment intensifies so much it overtakes time. What would normally take me minutes to notice blasts at me like a scattergun. I think it is the attempt to process somany details that makes it seem like time has slowed.
It reminds me of a new favorite show I watch, Psych, in which a guy with a photographic memory can pull in all these details and process them so quickly that he appears to be reading the minds of the people involved. I love the way
they zoom into each little detail that he’s narrowed down as being important; a photo… an empty coffee cup… a wet dog. Somehow when put together these things all make sense of the crime.
In my case the images I got, the sound of the tires sliding on the wet pavement… the crooked smile on the face of my daughter’s friend… the huge eyes on my daughter… the arms of one of the other moms reaching out to hold my daughter where she was… all framed a solid impression of what had just occurred. If I had a photographic memory I am positive I would have been aware of the way the drivers hands gripped the steering wheel or the skid marks the
tires made on the cement.
It is these details that create believable, relatable stories. Most of the time we see the huge eyes and know it is fear. We describe it as fear in our conversations…. “I could tell my daughter was scared”. But as a writer, I know my job is to let the readers know by the details what that fear looked like or sounded like.
Even before I exited the store my brain had processed the single most important detail in this particular story… I heard the screech of the tires; and then silence!