As I near the mid-point of the second draft of my upcoming novel, I am reminded of something I did before diving into the first draft so many years ago. The novel I am working on is a ghost story. The book centers around two points of focus, a classic muscle car and a haunted bridge. In an attempt to make the story as scary as possible, I engaged in an exercise I often employ while writing.
First, I researched haunted bridges. Since this story takes place in Utah, I was elated to find a location called the Crybaby Bridge. This bridge is located in Bear River, Utah. Local legend says a mother drove off the bridge many years ago and killed three of her children. The local’s claim that if you drive across the bridge with your window down and honk three times, you will hear the voices of children say, “Don’t do it, Mother!”
This and other stories like it helped me get a flavor for the bridge I wanted to write about. But I took it one step further. In order to elicit the right emotional in my prose, I decided to engage in a bit of what I call, “method writing.” There is a popular trail near where I live. It’s called the Lagoon trail. On the trail, one can visit two bridges. One of which is a covered bridge, large enough that a car could drive it if permitted. The other is a walking bridge.
One night in the moonlight, I visited these bridges. They are quaint bridges, quite lovely. But I had more nefarious ideas. That night, I put myself into a state of fear, trying to evoke any emotions of anxiety I could. I walked them. I leaned against their rails, looking, listening, and mentally recording everything I experienced. I went home with a headful of ideas on how to inject fear into my writing.
If you have never tried it, I urge you to give method writing a shot. Sometimes, you can even take a laptop along and write some of your prose on location. I remember visiting a train station, laptop in hand, finding a place to sit, and writing a few scenes for a script.
When it comes to dropping your readers right at the scene of the crime, sometimes putting yourself there, physically, and evoking the emotional state you seek for your story is just the thing to help you bring a little more reality to your prose.
Bless you for reading,