Friday, August 19, 2011

The Little Black Book

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK

As a new writer, one of the first things I learned was to always carry around a little black book with me no matter where I went. No, not the kind to jot down some hot guy’s phone number, but the kind where you jot down descriptions of things you see, conversations you overhear, or anything else that you believe to be noteworthy. You know, things you can use as fodder for your novels. Of course, you can still use it for hot guys’ phone numbers, but I’m married so that’s off limits.

At first, I wasn’t quite sure of what I was doing, until one day, I was in the airport at my gate and a conversation ensued with the woman sitting next to me. Her story was heart wrenching, yet it came to a wonderful conclusion. I cried with her, I laughed, and I rejoiced as she progressed with her story. That’s when I realized the value of carrying this book around with me, and then I confessed that I was a writer and told her that her story might just wind up in a book one day. I haven’t written that story yet, but I did start it, and boy do I have the perfect title: “Maybe Never”.

One of my really favorite things to watch is couples who meet for the first time. Guys are so transparent when they flirt. Seriously. First it’s the flirty once over look, the staring until they catch her eye, then the smile and then BINGO, the wise cracking of jokes to show her he’s worthy of her time—sort of like a pitch to an editor. Watching a woman who’s interested is also quite amusing. I get a real kick out of it. But the most important thing is I’ve learned something new about interaction.

Another place I find useful to have my black book next to me, is when I’m watching television, and as soon as I learn something, I jot it down. I jot down expressions, the way things are said—not that I can use it verbatim, but so long as I change it around, I’m okay.
All my stories take place in New York because that’s what I’m familiar with. Parks and places in New York that I’m unfamiliar with also get jotted down so I can research it later.

During my train rides into the city while going to culinary school, some of the things I encountered were shocking, and some hilarious. I was just getting used to the subways—it was during the winter and I was bundled up. While outside, it served to keep me warm, but on the train it was sweltering. One such evening, it was already dark outside and I was getting nervous because this guy is staring me down. No smile on his face, just staring and scaring the heck out of me, so I moved. He moved too, and he’s still staring at me. My heart is now pounding through my chest; I’m not sure what to do, and I was certain no one on the train was going to come to my aid if something happened. So I moved again and stood right in front of the glass doors so I could make a speedy exit as soon as the train stopped. I don’t know why I thought I could outrun this guy, but I wasn’t thinking clearly. Finally, I look in the glass window to see if this guy is still staring at me when I happened to glance at my reflection and that’s when I realized sweating had caused my mascara to pool under both my eyes making it appear as though I had two black eyes. Now, I began to crack up. I’m laughing so hard I’m sure he thought I was a whack job because he took off to the other side of the train. The morale of this story is this is good information to add to your story, whether it’s a mystery or light-hearted, but the other thing it taught me was to act like a loon on the subway and they’ll leave you alone.

So what do you use to record memorable and not so memorable moments that you can add to your stories?

















14 comments:

Dreamcatcher said...

totally get what u're saying... i've got my own little notebook for the exact same purpose... keep it next to my bed before i go to sleep and wake up in the middle of the night and write down my dreams in it :-p

Gina/Katherine said...

I'm terrible about writing things down. I just store all those little tidbits in the oversized file cabinet that is my head. Unfortunately, at this stage, nothing's filed properly, the drawers stick, and I can't always find what I'm looking for. Thank God it's back to school time. I'm going to my local Staples for a journal!

Sarita said...

I'm not as wonderfully organized. I have a bazillion post-it notes, all smashed into a drawer. It is funny, opening the drawer and having all the yellow squares pop out!

You've given me the push to grab a little black book. Thank you!

Sandy Cody said...

I'm afraid I rely on my memory, which is far less dependable than your little black book. Love the subway story. I'll have to remember to look for it in a future book. On the other hand, maybe I should get my own little black book and write it down.

What a fun post!

Shirley Marks said...

I use a small, purse size, spiral notebook. I carry it always.

At home I've got loads of regular, spiral notebooks to use, cast offs from the kids.

But the day that you don't have anything to write on is when the big idea hits you! Or when you're in the shower.

Carolyn Hughey said...

Gina, you're a nut! LOL And, I have the first tidbit for your journal. I know a certain woman who stores her cell phone right next to her heart. One day, said woman and her posse entered an elevator along with two college age guys. When said woman finished using her phone she stored it in the usual spot and I thought their bulging eyes would fall out of their heads as they watched. LOL Not that anything was exposed--they just weren't expecting it. He he

Carolyn Hughey said...

Sarita,
Here's a tidbit for one of your stories. I had a boss, a young woman, who stored everything anyone ever told her on post it notes. Her office was covered with them. It was like an advertisement for the company. We all teased her about it and she laughed it off. One day she walked out of her office and had a yellow post it on each ear where she'd switched the phone back and forth. Now, every time I see a post it, I think of her.

Carolyn Hughey said...

Sandy, you know, I've tried that same thing but like Gina, the draws get stuck and I can't remember the entire story. Now, that might be something funny to add to one of your stories.

Thanks for commenting!

Carolyn Hughey said...

Shirley, I'm with you on the big idea and nothing to write on. But just remember if that's when it hits you, jump out of the shower without toweling off and jot it down. You can always wipe the floor later. :-)

Thanks for commenting.

Carolyn Brown said...

Love the post! Like Shirley, I never go anywhere without my Fat Book...that's one of those extra thick purse sized spiral backs.It has notes, descriptions, outlines, and just plain old stuff in it. And like Shirley, I have cast offs for home...big spiral backs with all my notes for the WIP! No wonder you wrote a mystery with that story under your belt! Too funny!

Elisabeth Rose said...

I have a notebook in my bag. When we travel I often write down the odd things people say, or funny experiences, descriptions etc. I also have a computer file where I write down story ideas.

And then there's the bigger notebook on my desk. That's got odds and ends in it too, and the bits of paper floating about and the post-it's stuck to my desk . . .

Carolyn Hughey said...

Elizabeth, you're a woman after my own heart. :-)

Anonymous said...

I've carried a notebook in my purse for years. Sometimes I'll write something down that I think would be great as a story idea or in a novel. But, when I look at it later, I think "What the heck was that about and why did I write it down?" Thanks for the great blog.
Wanda Fittro

Leigh Verrill-Rhys said...

I always carry a notebook of some kind - trouble is I have so many of them and scattered in so many places, I have a long search to find the 'one' I need. I have a photograph of all my notebooks piled up in an attractive mound. Like Gina, I keep a lot in my head too. Often not a good idea. There's not a lot of room at the end of the day for that 'fantastic metaphor' you can't quite recall. I also use scraps of paper - a really bad idea. If I remember correctly, John Lennon wrote lyrics on the backs of envelopes.