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2005-02-02 - 1:26 p.m.

“Now remember, when you’re introducing a character, be sure you pick the right details. Sometimes you don’t need to say, ‘oh his hair is brown’, or, ‘oh he walks a little funny.’ Pick the detail that reveals the character. That one action or one attribute that tells us who he is, and what he needs. Get into that one specific moment that shows the reader everything. Pick that one small, tiny moment, where everything becomes clear.”

PLACE THROUGH CHARACTER THROUGH NARRATIVE
MIAMI AND NEW YORK, A COMPARISON

SETTING:

In what feels like balmy high sixty-degree weather, waiters and bar backs prep kerosene heat lamps along Ocean Drive in Miami. The winter has struck them like an infant, sans fingernails, dipping their temperature a stunning ten degrees off average, and thus each restaurant and club rushes to keep whomever they might have harpooned into their art deco chairs in sauna like conditions. A young man fiddles with the pilot just in front of a large planked deck, where a woman plays with every button on her digital camera.

When the wind sneaks through and gusts, whatever extremities you might have held dear are going to go red and numb, pumped with Jack Frost’s particular brand of Novocain. Given that the receiving area of most airports is little more than a three-walled tunnel, any bit of speedy airflow is siphoned and spat on weary travelers of LaGuardia minutes from a homecoming, or minutes from packing. Afternoon or not, nothing but dim lazy trickles of light wander down, barely giving the world color, making the white cab even harder to pick out.

CHARACTER:

The wicker bench holding up the gentleman’s khakis seems to be intruding a little bit too far, sticking his rear and making him wiggle. His girlfriend before him, framing out a portrait doesn’t seem to be working any wonders for his Zen state either. He does his best not to make eye contact with the lens, keeping his hands in his lap. The folds in his slacks are smoothed over. The sweater folded over his shoulders is straightened and fastened, like a bulging wool ascot. His hair is laced with enough product, he doesn’t need to worry about it going anywhere. His girl tightens the focus.

There’s not much to say about a red compact as it slams through the right merge lane at ninety miles per hour. There’s a collection of objects dangling off the mirror, but you can barely detect the silhouettes as the bounce off each other, rocked back and forth by the crumbling shocks of the crumbling import. At one point someone had tried to max out the ride, streaking a blue racing stripe down the side, but a collection of dings and scratches, wrings the line into all sorts of contortions. After nearly side swiping the cab as we tried to jump into traffic on the highway, he turns and slows down the red rocket, so he can pull up beside the Italian cab driver cursing him with every obscene hand motion invented on either side of the Mediterranean.

THE MOMENT:

Before the gentleman of slick hair and tied sweater sits a white wicker coffee table to match the chairs. On the very ends the table tips upwards just slightly; tilted. Seated just on that rise, a bottle of Corona squats leaned over as if deep in thought. As his girl finishes playing with the aperture, he glances nervously at the teetering bottle. After a long moment’s thought, his hand scoots up and slides it onto level ground. As she walks up to sit beside him, timer ticking, he takes the bottle and moves it behind the table. Cheese.

Nose to nose; cab to compact, the windows get rolled down. The grizzled driver charged with getting me back to Brooklyn runs through a thesaurus of vulgarity waving fingers, slamming hands on the door. In reply, already running words without pause, the captain of the compact reaches down onto the passenger seat and picks up a stuffed monkey. About the breadth of his forearm, and shagged in blue polyester fur, the monkey danced out the window at us, a steady flow of curses running out from behind him. He swerved the car, pushing us near the rail, as little button eyes stared us down. When the little red compact finally pulled off, the monkey came flying at us, bouncing of the trunk and rolling down the exit ramp behind.

CONCLUSION:

On the sunny peninsula they sit warm, in careful photographs feigning sober Saturday nights. In New York, they throw monkeys, and they don’t give a damn.

OMITTED INFORMATION:

The gentleman’s shirt and decorum can be find adjacent on the floor when anyone shoots a goal in the final minutes of a good soccer match. He does a shot with his girlfriend to celebrate.

The compact driver stopped to buy his kid another stuffed animal before he got home. His boy’s open arms waiting, he talks to his child in a voice that makes him giggle.

“Do not consider your friend by the way he’s treated you today, talked to you today. Think of him as he has been throughout your entire relationship.”

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