Blogs by Joel Arnold
11/8/2010 2:27:44 PM
Before we had kids, Melissa and I drove down to Rochester to visit my parents and attend a Christmas concert at the local community college. I was the one behind the wheel. It was early evening - the sun had already set, there was snow in the fields, but not on the roads - and at one point two eyes appeared in front of us reflecting our headlights back in a greenish-yellow glow. It was a doe, standing right there on Hwy 52. I slammed on the brakes, spat out the word 'Deer!' and braced for impact. The poor thing didn't have a chance.
Time slowed down drastically. I remember so many vivid details; the deer bending at an impossible angle, its head veering toward me, mucus flying from its eyes, nose and mouth onto the windshield. It rolled off the hood, and then there were headlights in our rear-view mirror and I braced myself again, thinking we might be rear-ended. I remember sitting there for a moment in the SUV on the highway, realizing I'd better pull over, and then Melissa and I talking about what we were supposed to do. Where had the deer gone? Did we need to drag it off the road? Were we supposed to call somebody?
I got out of the truck, and couldn't find the doe at first, but then there it was, back a ways, having rolled off the highway's shoulder and down a shallow embankment.
It wasn't until I walked back around the front of the truck to leave, that I noticed the damage. We were lucky, I suppose, that the airbags hadn't deployed, because the front of the SUV was pushed in a good half-foot, the hood bent up in the middle, the radiator badly dented.
Later, I found this to be kind of strange - that I hadn't noticed the damage being done to the vehicle at the moment of impact. A lot of force had been in play to push in the frame that much, to cause that much damage, but all that I had focused on at the time was the deer in slo-motion, head lolling toward me, mucus exiting its eyes, nose and mouth, spraying onto the windshield.
Here is what I've taken from this; a good lesson for writing about perspective.
What parts of a scene should our writerly lens focus on? What parts should be slowed down and examined in detail? What parts should be glossed over, or perhaps revealed in hindsight? Perhaps revealed at a later critical time?
The damage to the truck was not as important as the way the deer died, or at least how its death affected me in the moment of impact. The damage to the truck was more of an afterthought - an annoyance, sure, but not the focus of that particular scene in my life. It was, instead, the slow motion death of a sentient creature and the vivid detail of the mucus springing from parts I did not expect it to spring from.
The truck remained functional. We continued on to my parents', to the community college's Christmas concert. Somehow, the music made me forget, momentarily, of that slo-mo impact, that moment of shock and disbelief and bewilderment and the too-easy acceptance.
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More Blogs by Joel Arnold
The Sucking Suckathon of Suckiness - Monday, May 21, 2012
Mississippi Pearls and a Car Biding Its Time on the Ice 'til Spring - Thursday, December 29, 2011
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Racing Minnesota-style! - Wednesday, December 28, 2011
This Here Minnesota Horror Author was a Big Old Scaredy-Cat - Thursday, December 22, 2011
Jack the Blob Killer - Monday, December 19, 2011
Death Rhythm - Tuesday, September 20, 2011
More Writing What You Know - Monday, September 19, 2011
How I Interpret 'Write What You Know' - Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Blessings - or - What I write after having one too many... - Wednesday, August 03, 2011
120 Miles in a Canoe - Monday, June 27, 2011
On Stephen King - Thursday, June 23, 2011
Why Horror? - Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Zen & the Art of Swearing - Friday, June 10, 2011
If Coffee Shops were Run by Airlines - Thursday, May 12, 2011
Trying to Figure Out What Scares Me - Monday, March 21, 2011
My Confession - Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Going Indie with my novel Northwoods Deep - Friday, March 04, 2011
How I Envision Conflict When Writing - Thursday, March 03, 2011
Wall Drug - why it's one of my favorite places - Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Jonesing for a Road Trip - Wednesday, February 02, 2011
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How Do You Remember? - Thursday, January 20, 2011
When your parents are librarians... - Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The genesis of a novel - the first 6 days - Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Searching for Truth - Characterization - Thursday, December 16, 2010
Control - and a little more about Northwoods Deep - Monday, December 13, 2010
Bukowski - Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Flies, Flies, Spam, and Flies - Friday, December 03, 2010
Naivete and the Young Writer - Thursday, December 02, 2010
For Writers looking for some Adventure - Wednesday, December 01, 2010
My usual rider for family/friend appearances - Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Writing and Me - a dramatization - Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Writing Tip o' the Day (now with vitamin C!) - Tuesday, November 16, 2010
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To All the Bookstores I've Loved Before - Monday, November 15, 2010
The Care and Feeding of Writers - Sunday, November 14, 2010
Rudiments - Thursday, November 11, 2010
Writing Tip o' the Day - Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tragedy - now with 50% more pathos! - Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Perspective - Monday, November 08, 2010
The Daunting Dauntiness of Tweeting on Twitter - Saturday, November 06, 2010