Thursday, May 14, 2015

Invoking the Greenbow Alabama Rule of Writing



Last night, I sat here for three freaking hours on Google Earth looking at street shots of Dorohoi Romania, trying to figure out how my protag is getting to a clandestine location in Russia (roughly 25 hours away by car) without any of the authorities from three countries and a two secret societies finding her.

Definitely an "WTF" moment, right?

After some shenanigans on Facebook (you can read about said shenanigans here, if you reeeeeaaally wanna), I ended up only writing a few hundred words. But hey, I can tell you what the Romanian man standing on his front porch was wearing as the Google car passed by. That's something, right?

I was relating all the insanity to friend and crit partner, Hope Collier, today when she simply stated. "Why don't you invoke the Greenbow Alabama rule?"

Now you should know a few years back Hope and I took my daughter to the University of Alabama, and the first thing I asked the hotel's front desk manager was how far we were from Greenbow.

After a you-gotta-be-kidding-me glare, he mumbled something about there being no such place.

Gullible me insisted. "No. You know. It's the place in the movie Forrest Gump."

"Greenbow isn't a real town, Mam."

Other than feeling like a complete and total idiot, what I learned that day was the power of creative license. Something I obviously overlooked yesterday in my zealousness to get this story right.

Here's the thing. Not one person gave a flying rats ass if Greenbow was on the Georgia border, by a sandy beach or just a few miles from Mississippi. The only vital information the audience needed was that Greenbow was a small town somewhere in Alabama.

Why?

Because the specifics didn't drive the story forward, that's why. Just like whether my train leaves Dorohoi or some made up town close to an innocuous border somewhere. The point is my protag needs to travel a long way to get where she's going, and she needs to avoid detection. That's all.

After a few of these

I'm officially invoking the Greenbow Alabama Rule.

WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF IT BEFORE?