Sunday, June 22, 2014
What if You Must Write “What You Don’t Know?”
“Write What You Know” has been drummed into my head by teachers, magazine articles and books about writing since I got the bug to write years ago. Now one of my characters has escaped from Arizona to the heart of Los Angeles. She arrives in 1955 to make a mark in the music industry. Here I am trying to write “what I don’t know.”
I’m making headway in becoming familiar with the landscape where my character, Opal, walks, lives, and works. Can you believe I’ve found videos and photos from the 1950s on the Internet? One of Opal’s closest friends lives in the area known as Bunker Hill, and I’ve viewed a driving tour around those streets that was filmed in the 1940s.
This area wasn’t a victim of urban renewal until the early 1960s, so the buildings I’m seeing in the video would have survived into the 1950s. It’s a place where old Victorian houses reside among brick and mortar apartments and hotels. There are drug stores, dry cleaners, small grocery stores and other mom-and-pop businesses conveniently tucked within walking distance of these residential buildings.
I also discovered a cache of photographs of Bunker Hill taken by George Mann during the 1950s. His daughter found them in the basement as she prepared for a move. She held exhibits of his work and now they are posted on the Internet. What a treasure trove of street scenes and structures just as they looked when my character lived among them.
With these images lodged in my mind, I’m having better luck imagining Opal walking those streets and settling into the city. L.A. is a world away from the dusty streets of Mineral City, but Opal feels at home here in the company of a diverse and creative community of musicians, poets, actors, and artists. She thinks she might find her voice here and make a name for herself out from under the thumb of her mother.
Just a thought: Sometimes writing feels like swimming through a murky pond.
Solution: “Just keep swimming!”