The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel

Today’s photo prompt: TV. I give you a photo of winter past. The ice and sky are from two years ago,  but the crop is from a shot I took this afternoon. The image is knocking about my telly with fifty of its kin, coming and going to the sound of moody broody winter music. Why, you ask? I needed a bit of winter weather–and I needed it now. One of the joys of writing in season is that telling details–flourishes that ground your story and make fiction feel real–are ripe for harvest. For instance, I’m writing a winter scene. I’ve cold and damp out my door today. I can feel the wet and chill soaking through my shirt. Useful sensations I’ll weave into words, to be sure. But what I really need is snow. And for better or worse, I’m not nestled in Snowshoe, WVa., where last week, 24 inches of frozen precip dropped on their doorstep in 36 hours. But I do have photos of ice and snow and all manner of winter wonders that I’ve routed to our TV. I work while they play, stepping outside now and then, tasting the cold, then sliding onto the couch, putting fingers to keys, eyes flicking from story to TV and back again, blending the day’s chill with memories sketched in light, reaching for the perfect detail, the thought, the sensation, the wandering winter impression that can be felt–felt and not faked. A detail ephemeral, yet solid as stone. A bit of life that makes fiction come true. That’s what I find out the window and on the telly today....
History & Harmony

History & Harmony

It’s no wonder prose is lyrical–a lot of it’s written to music. I use soundtracks to set mood, recreate emotion, and spark images when none are forthcoming. At home or on the road, it makes no difference. All the songs I need are bottled in a shiny black box that fits in my pocket. It never skips, never misses, always plays precisely the same. But there was a time when music looked like this–a wooden box and a platter disc. The records popped and hissed and vibrated under the needle. No matter. The imperfections added character. I don’t write about those days in my fiction, but I do write about the people who remember them–or who would like to, but were born a bit late. Somehow they inherited the sensibilities of that earlier age, just the same. Maybe because they’re out of sync with the world, life never turns smoothly for these folks. They buckle under pressure, shimmy under the needle, show off their flaws at each and every turn. As well they should. At the outset, perfection may sound good, but if you listen closely, you’ll find there isn’t…much…character.  *** Photolog The photo comes from the Lyon County Museum and Historical Society, Emporia, Kansas. I attended a writing workshop at Emporia State University in June 2010. I shot the photo during a reception, and aged it a bit after. If you squint, you can make out the name on the...