November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I've been thinking a lot lately about images and writing--also about film scoring.

I wonder if one way to test a chapter's quality is to ask where the story is. What is that iconic scene that drives the narrative? If it's at the middle, end, or beginning it doesn't matter. There should be a scene somewhere--a key snip of dialogue and action--that captures everything you need to know in one or two paragraphs.

The picture above to me is an icon for Florida's "Nature Coast." It's lonely. It's marshy. It's rough terrain. Your cell phone barely gets signal and there isn't a gas station for miles. There aren't even many animals around except for an occasional sea gull or tern.

More than anything, what I noticed was the sun. As cliched as it is, the sun beat down the day of my visit. On a boat, away from the tree canopy, you'd feel it even more. The air was crisp, cool, and cloudless; the sun's glare blinding.

Probably an icon for the entire Chiles journey is the Jay Hill episode. It's a slice of life. It reminds me of the Haitian proverb: "Beyond mountains there are mountains." The proverb is the inspiration for the title of a book by Tracy Kidder about world health expert Dr. Paul Farmer. Chiles' journey up Jay Hill:

We talked with a number of people in Century and had breakfast there. At first they wanted to talk only about the 800-mile plus walk before me, but then everybody started telling me about the Jay hill which lay ahead of me on the way to Jay.

I don't believe it was more than three or four miles but it looked like eight miles when I started up. The word was that if I could make it up the Jay hill, the trip would be coasting the rest of the way to the Keys. I thought I had made it up and stopped to rest. About that time Officer Wood, a highway patrolman who used to be stationed in Lakeland, came by and stopped to see what I was doing there. He broke it to me that I was only halfway up the hill. It was kind of a blow cause I hadn't realized that when the road curved ahead, I'd have another half of the hill to traverse.

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