When I was a child I believed cars blew up when they flipped over. (Thanks A-Team.) In fact I believed that cars were rather prone to exploding in general. As an adult I came to realize that cars are much less explosive than my early education (by television) suggested. But even knowing that, I was concerned last week when I started to smell raw gas in my car. After a few days of driving with my windows down and saying “Do you smell that?” to anyone who got into the car, I decided to call the mechanic. Three days of testing later they found a fuel leak and replaced my gas tank (thank goodness for warranties). When I picked up the car I mentioned I had delayed the repair because no warning lights had come on in the car (my car normally warns me about everything). At that point the mechanic firmly informed me that in future if it has to do with fuel, “Don’t wait.” I made a joke (because it’s what I do to cover uncertainty) about the car blowing up, and rather than laugh (to reassure me of my safety and the ridiculousness of a car blowing up) he just repeated “When it’s fuel, don’t wait.”
So basically my three take aways from our conversation were that:
- My car almost blew up;
- The makers of The A-Team were right to fill my mind with the expectation that cars explode at regular intervals; and,
- I should continue to watch fiction on TV for educational purposes.
I totally think that’s the message the mechanic wanted me to get.
Blow something up. Not literally, because that can lead to jail time and missing body parts. But in your writing, where it’s safe, set a scene then blow something up. This exercise is about description. What does an explosion look and sound like? Take five minutes and describe it right now. I’ll wait.
Now re-set the scene (places everyone!) and do it again, but this time take away a sense. Describe the explosion from the point of view of a person who is blind or deaf. What would the explosion feel like? Pressure? Moving air? What would it smell or taste like? Sight and sound are often overused in writing when a description of smell or taste or another sensation would do the job as well or better. Spend ten minutes describing your explosion with an unexpected sense. Happy writing.
NB. Now I want to write a story where things that shouldn’t happen do…Cars blowing up when they flip. Dice that roll 12 too often. Cockroaches that are attracted to light. Ahhh TV. You not only raised me, but you continue to inspire.