Writing through the shock

Posted: February 3, 2014 in writing
Tags: , , , ,

I crashed my car in terrifying fashion on Friday. Lost control at seventy miles an hour, span across three lanes of traffic, smashed into the barrier and yet somehow escaped unscathed.

While it wasn’t my first thought, it didn’t take long for my writing brain to kick in and go ‘hey, that’s a life experience, what can I do with that?’ As I sat by the side of the road, cold, shaken, angry at myself and at my insurance company for leaving me there, some part of me was analysing it and storing the experience away for later.

This is a good sign. I clearly have my writing brain well trained and enjoy using it enough that it spontaneously takes over in moments of crisis. But it’s a strangely distancing thing too, when you’re not so much feeling the shaking of your own hands as noticing that they’re shaking and thinking that’s an interesting detail.

For the record, I’m absolutely fine and no-one else was even involved in the accident. Poor Oli, my mighty metal steed, is in less good condition, currently locked in a police impound and awaiting some serious repair work.

I’m incredibly grateful to the drivers who stopped to help me out, and to my friend The Northerner, who rescued me in my hour of need and reminded me to have a hot sugary drink to counter the shock. Dude, you’re an absolute legend.

So, in the spirit of writing what you know, I imagine I’ll be writing a few car crashes over the next year. Or at least making a better job of describing how people feel after a shocking event. Because a writing brain is a pretty powerful thing, and if I can’t use it to profit from my scare then really, what’s the point in being a writer?

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Comments
  1. glenatron says:

    At a writers’ group a few years ago one of the members was a trainer with armed police. One day he did a talk on the effects of different adrenaline levels on what you can do- amazing how inhibiting it is to most cognitive functions at the higher levels. Something that one seldom encounters in fiction, where people seem able to stay uncannily cool in the most extraordinary situations.

    • My cognitive functions were definitely pretty inhibited by the time the car stopped. I remember just sitting there, staring at the steering wheel, unable to think through even such basic steps as getting out of the car. I like to think that I show difficult situations stressing out my characters sometimes, but it’s made me realise that I underestimate the sheer disabling impact of that stress.

  2. I have a bit of anxiety, and I’ve used the frustrating (and at times terrifying) experiences of it to help with my characters quite often. You don’t often get protagonists who freeze up in fight-or-flight scenarios, after all. There was a time when I was terrified of a left-hand turn and stopped dead in the middle of making it, and I’ve been able to use that sense of nightmarish paralysis to good effect in writing. Now if only I could get over it while driving…

  3. […] no, getting distracted by plot isn’t why I crashed my car, though it was on that […]

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