Day 3: Mapping Out Writing Time: Falling into Research or How I Became My Own Action Hero

Needless to say, drop off for kindergarten did not go well this morning. Princess Rock Star wasn’t herself and wouldn’t stop crying. It proved quite challenging to get her into the classroom. If not for the kindergarten fiasco, I think things would be quite different. However, I’ll never know.

I love our school, especially the way they handle Ninja Girl’s food allergies. I know the person meant well, but it didn’t work for my child, and for that, I am so disappointed the woman couldn’t figure it out. Thanks, Everyone, for your good wishes for Princess Rock Star. I am so grateful.

Of course, with all this excitement, I deviated a tiny bit from my writing plan. I still wrote, but the regularly scheduled program had to be interrupted for sanity’s sake–I had to clean the house.

Let the chorus begin.

The windows needed some sparkle and since it was a beautiful day, I figured I’d tackle them. There’s a bay window in my living room, measuring about six feet across. The windows pull out for easy cleaning, and as there were quite a few little fingerprints on them, they were my first project. Windex and paper towels in hand, I sprayed and wiped, and the inside windows soon gleamed.

The middle section gave me a little trouble. Every time I opened the bottom 3 1/2 foot-wide window, it slid back down. After pulling the window out, I discovered the right side pin was off the runner. An easy fix, I thought, and climbed up the window ledge to align everything back into proper position. After some fiddling, I figured out one side of the window needed to be lowered a few inches, to maneuver the pin from the other side back in place. What I failed to factor in was how heavy this double-paned, 1970’s monstrosity would be, and why I, at 5’3″, thought I’d be able to lift this 3 1/2 foot-wide window, keeping it mostly horizontal at thigh level, all by myself.

Everything fell into place. The pin slid in the runner, and I slowly lifted up the left side of the window to even things out. I’m so pleased at this point, ready to crow about my fix-it-skills to my husband, when the weight of the window became a bit much and snap! I stumbled, the window popped out, and both runners flew up the casing.

Did I mention I’m standing on a 1-foot-wide window ledge, 2 1/2 feet from the ground, gripping a 3 1/2 foot by 2 foot double paned, insulated enormous glass beast horizontal to the ground, in 78 degrees, with sun glaring in my eyes, crouched down so my head doesn’t hit the fluorescent lighting panel, thirty minutes before I have to pick up Princess Rock Star from school, and I hate it when I can’t fix things, especially when I have to explain what happened to my husband?

I know. I should have just stopped. But I had to continue. Especially since I realized I had an action scene in PB I needed to work on, and this gave me first hand experience to some of the physical challenges.

I knew how to get this to work, and I proceeded to line the pins up with the runners. Everything was going smoothly, when the window shifted too much on one side. I lost my balance and fell to the ground, knocking over a lamp, the window crashing with me.

Needless to say, a good superhero I would not make–no flying away for me. Perhaps a stunt double… But, I am lucky–escaping with a few bruises, scrapes, and some aches that are surfacing as the day goes on. As for the window, it didn’t break, though a corner cracked open with about 2 inches of exposed glass. A deep gouge, now guarded by our sofa, decorates our wood floor. And the lamp shade is useless, torn and crinkled, but the lightbulb remained intact.

Our handyman told me later, looking at the window and then back at me–in shock? dismay? speechlessness? respect?–I am one lucky person–people have died from this type of thing, from this particular manufactured window, since it is so heavy. Gulp.

And for those who are curious, he fixed the window in ten minutes flat.

Two good things came from this.

One: The first thing my husband said when I called him in a panic, “Are you okay?”

Two: This escapade proved to be incredible research for a particular scene in PB.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Research is an important key to making your scenes believable. Conduct some research, ie: research via the Internet or go to the library and hunt for books pertinent to your subject, sit in the park and observe mannerisms of people around you, go to the museum to look at artifacts, listen to how teens talk, learn how to do things your protagonist loves to do, interview experts, make something happen, etc.

Layer in the details into your scene (be sure to touch on the 5 senses) and watch your work come to life.

Happy Writing!

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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