It has been estimated that between 80% and 90% of people feel as though they have a book in them. Someday, they think. They will sit down and type out this masterwork that they keep inside like a treasure locked in a trunk.
I truly believe that this is the case. What isn’t mentioned is that only 10% of people actually sit down and write that book.
This is a magnificent statistical jump. This means that 70-80% of people will never sit down and write their book.
What’s the difference between that 10% and the others? What makes them stand apart?
The simple answer is, the writer does.
Allow me to take you down a small snippet of how my mind works, as exhibit A. Recently, I was invited to go to Las Vegas, a city I’d never visited, with a number of women whom I know to varying degrees through real life and the Internet. Most of these women are in my situation – married, children, around my age. “A pride of cougars,” quipped one of my friends.
I didn’t want to go to Vegas when this first started. I didn’t feel like I had the money or the time to go. However, when three of your close friends get online and tag-team argue with you about going, the reasons to stay peel away from you until a soft, meek, “Okay” is all you can manage.
From the moment I got into the airport, something shifted in my mind. I started noticing the people waiting for the plane. There was a trio of Asian girls, very cute, taking selfies and talking about fashion. There was a big black man, handsome, shaved head, on his cell phone explaining to someone how to arm his home security system. A woman as a caricature of Vegas, bleached platinum hair, off-balancingly large breasts, and denim that didn’t so much hug her curves as kept her curves strapped in for others safety. She wasn’t wearing high heels, which surprised me, but rather gold Converse. She did have a Yorkshire Terrier on a pink leopard spotted leash though.
None of these people seemed like typical residents of my burg.
When I sat down on the plane, it was next to an Indian father and son team, both in business casual. The father was man-spreading, which gave me the right to hate him for the next two hours, but when I put my Kindle down on final approach, he immediately started talking to me. “You’re a good reader,” he said. “Are you a school teacher?”
He was a smaller man, with gray hair where he wasn’t bald, and kind eyes that I hadn’t noticed previously. He talked to me for a while and then leaned his head back on his headrest. Another Indian man I didn’t realize was with him tried to get his attention from another row. Finally, the son shook him and the father looked at him and said, “I’m praying.”
In the back of my mind, I could feel my ‘record’ button being on, taking note of the unfamiliar situation I had found myself in despite the familiarity of numerous flights in my life.
When we landed, I still felt myself recording. I noticed one of the Asian girls who had been taking selfies come out of a stall in the ladies’ bathroom. I walked down the hallways and found a Starbucks, and noticed the black man and his 14-year-old son walking past me as I stopped to get a drink. I tried to take it all in, but that’s generally impossible. It’s always best to find the most interesting scene and let the rest go, otherwise you tend to get a muddy memory.
It’s details, more than generalities, that sell a good story. It’s better to tell the story about the fatherly Indian man than to try to remember what the flight attendant looked like. This is how my brain works, much like any writer (although vastly different than some.)
I could give you more specifics but it’s important to remind the reader that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. The important part is that while others saw the Strip unfold before them, I was imagining what a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas would look like, rising from the desert. Blending fiction with reality and seeing scenes instead of human interaction isn’t something that everyone does, and I daresay we’re probably better off for that. However, this is what makes a writer a writer, so if this is something you find yourself doing regularly, it’s time to ask yourself – where’s my book?