Road Trip Roundup

My recent travels to Bethany Beach rekindled my interest in road trips.

I wrote about road trips back in 2010, advising writers to note the names of roads, businesses, schools–whatever–as they traveled. Venture off the congested interstate to the byways and small towns where the names really get good. Sometimes a compelling name is enough to spark a story. Consider Bone Yard Road or Fresh Fire Church of God as possible settings.

barn on a scenic byway on my road trip home
A barn glimpsed from a scenic byway during my recent travels

Leave space in your itinerary and in your mindset to come upon the unexpected, e.g. an African/Mediterranean vegan cafe in Santa Fe or a salt mine in Warsaw, Poland, that’s been carved into a salt cathedral. Those locations might stimulate a scene or add a quirk to your story.

Wieliczka salt mine
Wieliczka salt mine (Photo: Cezary p [CC BY-SA 3.0])

While I’m on the road, I keep a daily journal to record the vivid details not found in a tourist pamphlet. Think Jack Kerouac. John McPhee. Paul Theroux.

How do you record your road trips? Let me know in the comments.


Writing Prompt: Unexpected Turn

Sometimes a story starts one way and then takes an unexpected turn–sort of like thinking it might be nice to visit Rhode Island and suddenly realizing you’re headed for the Bahamas. So today’s challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to revisit your story about hyperbaric therapy and turn it in a different direction. If it was successful, make it a disaster. Loaded with fear? Make it excitement. Or humor!

ALTERNATIVELY: write about hyperbaric therapy that goes terribly wrong. Of course it could be medical malfeasance or incompetence, but think more broadly: natural disaster, act of God, equipment failure. And what about suicide, assisted or otherwise? Or perhaps murder. Possibly some combination of the above?

To do either of these stories, you must get the details right. For example, a typical pressure is 2.0 pounds per square inch. That is equivalent to being 33 feet under the ocean’s surface. Details like that might mean something to deep-sea-diving readers. Know the benefits and risks of this treatment. Know what would be possible. And remember to bury your research by making it part of plot, dialogue, setting, and action.

And FYI, here’s a picture of a hyperbaric chamber after a treatment.

Writing prompt, hyperbaric therapy, unexpected turn

Story Starters

The March 11th Wall Street Journal had a front page article about a man who wants to open an eight-track tape museum. Story ideas are everywhere. Get in the habit of noticing them.

For example, create a character who is obsessed with establishing a museum for some antiquated or esoteric object.