Time molds vivid memories from one’s past into the building blocks of one’s writing… . I believe that we all play connect-the-dots as we travel the road of life, and our writing benefits from this; both in developing story ideas and the characters themselves. I used this human activity in the flash fiction piece ‘WALK’-‘DON’T WALK’ ; the protagonist does memory association as she walks down a street. Ask yourself, what do your characters think about, what motivates them; resulting in why they do/not do something, and their interaction with other characters? To assist your subconscious thoughts to rise up and challenge your creative writer minds, here is an example of a recent connect-the-dots excursion. I was driving by a McDonald’s that was undergoing renovation, read corporate modernization/history demolition, and my mind flashed back to the first McDonalds that opened in Baltimore. Then I thought about how the teenager fast food concept has changed from the 1950s Car-Hops bringing your order to your car, to walk-up windows, to actually eating inside the facility…wait, in 1975 I was in Sierra Vista, Arizona when and where McDonald’s opened their first drive through window. I now take drive through windows for granted, as with the other changes. My writer’s mind then kicked into high gear and I wondered how many society ‘changes’ have I failed to capitalize on in establishing a character’s life/personality. Take cultural differences. Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants opened in Germany in the 1960s, principally to cater to American military personnel, however, they had a problem drawing in the local population. Why, because you eat KFC with your hands, and that was not acceptable etiquette. It was Ronald McDonald, who arrived in Munich in November 1971 with his relaxed, fun, fast food concept that had a major effect on changing the German, then the world’s, attitude by bridging the fast food gap between a sandwich and finger lickin’ good food. Yes, some would say the world has ‘benefited’ from old Ronald in more ways than just high calories, salt, sugar, and carbs. Now that I have you mesmerized by the history of fast food, let’s change the subject to Laundromats. Here, in an abridged version, is how I used connect-the-dots for my novel Simplicity Lane. We find Ted and Connie exploring Plantation, the hometown of his mom’s family: *********************************************************************** They got out of the car and walked across the street to the Fluff and Dry Laundromat; a two story building that had a worn-out neon sign over a huge window that allowed all outside to see all inside. Behind the burnt-out neon tubes was painted “25 ¢ a load – folded!” Connie laughed, “Times they are a-change-ing.” Ted took a second to realize she was making a pun. He loved the way she could quip so effortlessly. Ted noted that while the place was old, the machines were ‘new;’ apparently a relative term for Laundromats. “They seem to be in good shape and clean.” “They’re clean.” The voice was coming from behind the row of dryers. Ted called hello to the voice. “No point in yelling. With the equipment off, the talk bounces off the ceiling. I can hear a hanger drop on the other side of the place.” “Cleaning the lint traps?” “Good guess, or are you familiar with Laundromats?” “Familiar. Typical college student…poor college student.” “Who’s momma said come home to visit, but don’t expect me to do your washing.” Connie laughed, “You have that right.” As the voice came walking around the row of dryers, “I’m Mack, or ‘Hay Mack’, most of the time.” (introductions) “Your grandma used to bring your mom and uncle Danny. Turned her back on them one day to get some more soap, and your uncle Danny tried to push Teal into one of the dryers so she could take a ride. Good thing another customer stopped him. Teal, she was so upset she had missed a chance to ride, I doubt she felt your grandma’s hand on her bottom.” They talked about the street the Laundromat was on and how it had changed over the years. The change in customers, their jobs, dress, and recreation. Mack told Ted about the history of the motorized washer. How his granddad bought a Maytag Model 72 aluminum tub multi-motor in 1923. Tinkered with it and opened his Drop-off Laundry in ’28. “Had three Model 82’s. Yet, even with the introduction of a double main bearing, the washers were prone to break down cause of the more than average use. After reading about a new business idea in 1940, Gran, my dad helping out, with six Model J’s, the first really dependable machines, transitioned this place to self-service. Course we switched to commercial machines in ’53. They were coin machines. Until then, this place was really not like the places you remember.” Mack said in 1957 the place became the first 24 hour establishment in the village. With the distance many customers had to travel, being open 24 hours allowed more people to use the place. Two hours later as they walked back to the car, Connie asked, “Ted, why did he…go into so much detail about the Maytags?” “That’s his life…the real story of his life. Mack told us a number of important things about this village and his relationship to it.” Connie got in and Ted leaned towards her, “He told us that this small speck of civilization contains creative minds… and, life goes on around here 24 hours a day.” (Simplicity Lane is a work of fiction, copyright Steven S. Walsky, 2007, all rights reserved.) *************************************************** Simplicity Lane (Lethal greed exists in places goodness is ignorant of.)
. . . Think about your ‘building blocks’; we can not write without them.