Monday, October 26, 2009

The Blog Chain: FEAR

This week's topic was started by the vivacious Kat who asked,

What are the primary fears that drive your characters? Do they battle aliens of gangsters or monsters? Or do they battle unreconciled issues in their lives? Which do you prefer writing about? What do you fear?

My fear can be summed up in one word: ICE.

Those ain't no photobucket stock pics.

That. Was. My. Car.
(Station wagon, actually. But who can tell?)

In 2002 I was traveling along I-40 in St. Louis and coming up to the old Bush Stadium. It was beginning to sleet so I slowed my pace. The interstate arched upwards and at the top of the hill I was surprised to see that the cars below were at a standstill. I tapped on my brakes and while my car fish-tailed I was able to come to a safe stop.

Then I looked in my rearview mirror. Even at a glance I could tell the guy flying over the hill would be unable to stop.

He didn't.

And neither did the eighteen cars after him.

I walked away from this accident with 30 staples in my head, a concussion, and lots of bumps and bruises. (Incidentally, when your Mom warns you to wear clean underwear - heed her! I told the paramedics my leg hurt and my pants were cut off faster than you can say, 'Yes, I wear granny-panties, what of it!')

Because of this accident I've had an eight-year prescription of anxiety relieving drugs and I. Do. Not. Drive. On. Ice. Sometimes, if I close my eyes I can still hear the whine of twisting metal - feel the warmth of the blood as it trickles down my face.

But this wasn't my first brush with death. I almost drowned at sailing camp. I was in a tornado. My brain swelled so severely from a horseback riding accident they nearly drilled a hole in my head. The last incident I prefer to keep private. In honor of these occasions I have a tattoo of a black cat with the words "nine lives" drawn overhead. Underneath I have five tally marks. (The poor kitty deserves his own tally mark as he did not fare so well during my pregnancy - his location is on my abdomen.)

Because of this I'd like to think that I can express fear in my writing in a way that others may not. I know what it feels like to stare down the end of a barrel. Your heart pounding so loudly it drowns out all other sound. The tingling of adrenaline as it races along your skin on insect legs. The thickness of your throat when you're trying to scream, yet the sound won't come. So, while my fears can sometimes get the better of me, I can take some joy in the fact that these heart pounding experiences only served to benefit my writing.

So how about you? What experiences have you had, good/bad, that have changed your writing?

Please check out the astounding Shaun who posted two days ago, and the awe-inspiring Rebecca who will post later today because I am, once again, a slacker.



  1. Whoa. Yeah, I don't have anything that compares. Soooo glad you survived, and yes, I bet that part of your stories is real as real gets.

  2. Wow Cole. Just--wow. You deserve that tattoo. I can kind of relate about the driving thing. When I was 15 I was driving down a washboardy dirt road and lost control, rolling my mom's car down an embankment. To this day I crawl down dirt roads. They're just too unstable under tires.

    You know your fear girl. I bet you write it exceptionally well.

  3. Wow. How can I possibly relate any fears to everyone in comparison to this? I definitely agree with you about ice however. And I'm glad you're still breathing, still able to write, and still among us. Nice post.

  4. Cole, wow I completely know what you mean about a wreck staying with you so vividly. I recently celebrated my 10 year anniversary of getting t boned by a dumptuck while driving a neon. yeah, it was just like it sounds but hats off to you! It's awesome to put your fears into words and celebrate them with ink!

  5. We've talked about your brushes with death before and, while I wish you'd never have gone through some of these things, I do think they've made you the assertive, fearless person I've seen you be--and it's definitely a quality that you put in Rileigh in KATANA.

  6. You have an amazing wealth of experience to draw from! I so want to read your stuff

  7. That is like... 29 staples too many to be in your head :S. I can see why you're not a fan of ice!

    Powerful post, Cole. Thanks for letting us get to know you more!

  8. Yikes! I've spun out a couple of times on ice before, but nothing compares to that. I think I'm going to be an Even More Nervous Nellie this winter.

  9. Inspired post, Cole.

    Nothing makes you appreciate the sun quite so much as the shadow of death.

    Those quick flashes--where the guillotine trims your hair--those are potent. They come, they go, and just that quick, they're part of your history. They certainly inform your writing in a way that imagination can't.

    At the other end of the spectrum, I don't know that I ever felt such a rush of pure joy, and love, as the moment I first held my daughter. That, too, shapes my writing in a way that imagination never could.

    Thanks for sharing your insight.

  10. Wow, that's amazing! I have only been in one car accident, and it was nowhere near that dramatic. I bet your scenes with fear are well, terrifying!

  11. Wow, you have earned that tattoo! I am also afraid of driving in snow/ice, but my story is nowhere near as traumatic - I simply went into a ditch with my sister's car when I was 16. Yes, the "sister's car" was the worst part of it.

    Great post!

  12. Winter driving = not fun.

    I think I know exactly where you're talking about along I-40. Don't get me wrong, I love the city, but St. Louis traffic is crazy. I can't imagine driving there on ice.

    But it's great that you can use those fears developed from bad experiences for something good.

  13. Wow says it all. All I can say is that I'm glad you have nine lives because you're too cool not to.

  14. Yeah, I'm no fan of driving on ice...or snow...or even rain - I avoid all of the above whenever possible. :) Take care of the rest of your lives!!! Mine would suck without you in it :) Great post!