For example, as most Simplicity Lane readers are well aware, fictitious Dave, in Through a Stranger’s Eyes, likes to occasionally use my life experiences as his own. He tells Breen about one of my experiences:
“I met Patty Loveless that night; a backstage meet-n’-greet after a concert in San Antonio.”
“You didn’t tell me that, Dave. What is she like in person?”
“Considering it was after eleven at night, she was very pleasant, tired, and sincere. She had to be tired, but took time with each of us that were allowed back stage. Signed a picture…but you’ll have to give me a kiss to see it!”
Sometimes our music and dance experiences are not as delightful as meeting Patty Loveless. For example, in early1961, soon after walking into the house with a neighborhood friend, my aunt, who loved to dance, asked me to show her how to do the twist. Spurred on by my friend, I said OK, and proceeded to twist away. Unfortunately, I got too close to my aunt, who was seated in a living room chair, and as I swung around to the right, my right hand swung around into the side of her face. Thankfully she was not hurt, and she commented, loudly, that the twist was like roller derby.
My dancing experience gave neighborhood buddies something to laugh about; and obviously my experience was not what Chubby Checker had in mind when he sang:
Come on let’s twist again,
Like we did last summer!
Yeaaah, let’s twist again,
Like we did last year!
(Lets Twist Again, written by Kal Mann and Dave Appell, and released as a single by Chubby Checker 1961.)
There is a connect-the-dots writer’s consideration to my dance story. Months later I was at the birthday party of a classmate, and Buddy Deane showed up to say happy birthday. Everyone in Baltimore knew about the WJZ-TV Buddy Deane Show, whether or not they watched it. I was glad no one mentioned my twist (and shout) experience; otherwise he might have mentioned it on the show, or told Chubby Checker.
Until four years ago, I would not have given a second thought to using the Buddy Dean Show in my writing. Today, however, I realize that my readers may not comprehend the mental associations I want to conjure up.
I was at a musical dinner theater, and the show was Hairspray; which is based on the 1988 John Waters film Hairspray. The plot revolves around Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad, whose 1962 dream is to dance on the local, segregated, Corny Collins Show; a fictitious Baltimore TV dance program based on the Buddy Deane Show. The real Buddy Deane Show was taken off the air in 1964 because WJZ was unable to integrate black and white dancers.
A person sitting at the table understood the underlining premise of the musical, racial segregation of 1962. However, she is younger than me and from New York City, and she has no memory connections to early 1960s Baltimore, or the Buddy Deane Show. Thus, my recollection antidotes about my teenage life in Baltimore and the Buddy Deane Show did not produce intended mental associations.
As writers we should remember that a reader’s association with a ‘well known’ topic is influenced by their age and personal association. Just because the subject itself is well known, the ‘plot necessary’ relationship to the character has to be explained/connected in appropriate words. For example, will your reader, a runner or a non-runner, understand the intended significance of the story character missing a specific race?
Or, did you say/not say ‘oh nooooo!’ to my twist (and shout) experience Chubby Checker song pun :-)
Think about your ‘building blocks’; we can not write without them.