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The Barefoot Burglar

Cheryl's Musings: The Barefoot Burglar

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


The Barefoot Burglar

I’m writing draft #1 of my latest YA novel—and every once in a while, I lose my forward momentum. That’s usually a sign that I’m missing something. Even though I *attempt* to do a thorough job mapping out plot, characters, and setting ahead of time, I hit inevitable bumps and hitches when I actually write the story. The trick is knowing what to do about them.

One of my favorite strategies is to travel to the area where the story is set—in this case, in the San Juan Islands in the Pacific NW. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to hop on a plane, fly up there, and rent a sailboat for a week, so sometimes I substitute research of a more practical bent…like reading the area’s local newspaper.

You gotta love living in a time when you can read about the sheriff’s clothing choice at a recent speech to the San Juan Lion’s Club, or find a blow-by-blow account of the Wolverines’ latest soccer match.

Not that I’ll use the soccer game scores in my book. However, the case of the barefoot burglar is definitely going to inspire some local color for the tale.

The barefoot burglar is a local teen who’s been on an 18-month spree of breaking and entering, theft, and, most recently, joyriding in airplanes. Apparently, he has little trouble avoiding the local police force—which shouldn’t be such a big surprise, because the islands don’t have the manpower to track down one kid on several islands filled with vacation homes, trees, deer, and the occasional bald eagle.

My favorite character in the tale isn’t the kid, though. It’s the mother, who threatened to chase reporters off her property with a shotgun—and then proceeded to give them a lengthy interview. She talks about her son with a mixture of sympathy, worry, and pride. She told reporters "I hope to hell he stole those airplanes — I would be so proud. But put in there that I want him to wear a parachute next time." (from Gene Johnson’s AP article “Teenage burglar moves on to stealing planes, eludes police on islands north of Seattle”.)

Yeah, this is the kind of character detail that makes me grin. Two sentences and you can totally picture this woman, right? Thanks, Ms. Kohler. You’ve helped me find my way back into the story!

:-) Cheryl


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