Writing about the Unfamiliar

Do you like to read or write about the familiar things in life, or do you prefer times, past or future, where you must venture into unfamiliar and unknown landscapes of the imagination?

When I sit down to write, I prefer closing the door on the present and walking down that long, dark hallway to the past.

I never thought I was writing stories that could be classified as historical fiction, but I am guilty of writing about another time and place. I have a feeling that readers are as tired of the present as I am. I believe they want something different. Of course, I’ve been wrong before.

I am intrigued with the unknown.

As a writer, I am always beckoned by the unfamiliar.

Frankly, it is tough to build suspense, when, regardless of the situation, the hero or heroine simply pulls out a cell phone and starts dialing for help or backup. Give me a hero who has to run down a dark alley in the dead of night frantically searching for a pay phone or a late night café that’s still open or a taxi cruising the back streets. You never know who’s driving the taxi.

You can write great scenes on trains with their club cars, dining cars, Pullman cars, and journeys across country that take two days or a week. The Orient Express comes to mind. So does Silver Streak. Neither stories would work on American Airlines from Dallas to New York with a stop in Charlotte.

You can’t write those kinds of gripping scenes, you can’t introduce a bunch of really intriguing characters, and you can’t develop relationships if everyone is strapped into their airplane seats and never more than a couple of hours away from their final destination. Overseas flights have some potential, but not like a train roaring through the darkness with gunfire and sex running rampant from car to caboose.

As I wrote in Secrets of the Dead:

THE TRAIN BORE through the gray of a day made dark by heavy snowfall that turned the forests into shadow tunnels and erased the sky with a layer of clouds the color of dirty flannel. Ambrose glanced at the sleeping German officer on the far side of the compartment. The aging man’s chin had dropped to his chest, and the drool at the corners of his mouth had turned to froth, speckled with blood.

“He won’t disturb us,” said the man with the bulbous nose. He pulled his overcoat tighter around his throat and his woolen hat down low over his eyes.

Ambrose Lincoln studied him closely.

The man was younger than he looked.

The years had not aged him.

But they had been hard years.

His face was weathered.

He wore a patch over his left eye, probably made from pigskin. It was scratched in places where it shouldn’t be scratched at all. A ragged scar curved like the blade of a saber from the patch down to a small, pointed chin that was mostly hidden by a well-groomed goatee, black and sprinkled with a touch of gray.

His clothes had once borne fancy price tags.

He was obviously a man of means.

Life meant little to him. The German officer had gone to sleep on the eastern side of Katowice. He would not awaken in Strasbourg.

He would not awaken at all.

The man wiped the officer’s blood from the blade of an ice pick and dropped it in the trash basket. By the time anyone discovered the ice pick, he would no longer have any use for it.  The German had not complained. He journeyed from one life to the next without ever opening his eyes.

When you write about the past or the future or fantasy island, your hero and heroine has to get by on guts, gumption, guile, and guns. There is no easy way out, and so many great books have been built on the premise that there is no easy way out.

I may, of course, only be a lone voice crying in the wilderness.

So how about you?

Do you like to read or write about the familiar things in life, or do you prefer times, past or future, where you must venture into unfamiliar and unknown landscapes of the imagination?

Please click HERE to find Secrets of the Dead on Amazon while it is on sale for 99 cents.

, , , , , , , , ,

Related Posts