Driving Dangerously

James Scott Bell

Among the stranger headlines of last week was the following:

Man Driving with Snakes in His Pants Causes Multi-car Accident

According to one online source:

A man in Hartford, Connecticut caused a multi-car crash after he claimed two pet baby snakes escaped from his pants pockets . . .

Angel Rolon, 20, told police he lost control of his SUV when the snakes slithered near the gas and brake pedals. Rolon said as he and his passenger tried to catch them, the SUV veered into some parked cars and overturned. If he had a dash cam, like the ones that BlackBoxMyCar offer, he would have been able to capture this incident!

Animal control officers at the scene were unable to locate the snakes, and police have not confirmed Rolon’s story.

Rolon was treated at a hospital for unknown injuries. Police say they gave him a summons for reckless driving and other charges. One can only assume a criminal defense lawyer is going to be faintly amused if this case lands on their desk.

Now as I recall, my dad told me never to drive with alcohol in my blood or snakes in my pants. He was very emphatic about that. Doesn’t every kid learn this valuable lesson before taking the family car out for a spin?

“Remember, son, no drag racing and no legless reptiles in your Levis. Have you got that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If you have any ectothermic squamate in your jeans while you’re behind the wheel, you’re grounded.”

“I understand, sir.”

In all candor, though, I must admit there is an application for fiction writers here. You see, writing a full length novel is very much like driving a car with snakes in your pants–you just never know what’s going to happen. You may start out with great intentions, but somewhere along the way some major slithering will take place. You may feel prepared to handle any eventuality, but when reptiles are loose around the gas pedal you could end up in a major collision or even needing to face the lawyer of someone you hit.

We all set off on our “drive” to write with some trepidation, knowing there will be inevitable setbacks, disappointments, even book-ending accidents. But that doesn’t stop us, if we really have the chops, the desire. You want to write, you write, snakes or no.

Is that true for you? Taking a cue from the hapless Hartford driver, what metaphor do you come up with for describing the crazy journey of writing a novel? Have at it.

15 thoughts on “Driving Dangerously

  1. I ran a pathfinding course years ago, with directions, a compass, and a few checkpoints to get me back to camp. I blazed that trail faster than anyone else by a substantial margin–only later I found out that I had misread the directions, taken a wrong turn, and missed a checkpoint.

    I guess the analogy in all of that is that the industry wants it done a certain way, but sometimes you can blaze your own trail to the goal.

  2. I’d be willing to bet that the distraction of a driver’s trouser snake being taken out while driving has caused a thousand times more accidents than pocket snakes slithering around the pedals.

  3. I think of writing as the struggle of a sculptor to find the shape hidden in the stone. At any point, one can strike the wrong blow and ruin the emerging sculpture, or discover that there is a fatal flaw in the marble. Fortunately, it’s easier to rewrite on paper than it is to start over again on a new block of stone!

  4. Q: “How to you eat an elephant?”

    A: “One bite at a time.”

    Someone much brighter than I said it, but it sums up what writing a novel is like for me. If you think about having to come up with 100,000 that are gonna stick, then you get paralyzed by the task. Dive in, and start chewing.

  5. I always think it’s like being in a dark cave. You suspect there’s treasure in there but need to find the flashlight first. You stumble and grope around – only to find something far less savory between your fingers. That’s what writing is like for me sometimes…and so I wipe my hands and just keep looking.

  6. I want to write a novel readers can really sink their fangs into. Hmmm. I’m sensing a branding opportunity here.

  7. I like the E.L. Doctorow quote: Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Gay Talese has a variant of that, as well.

  8. I’m trying, a serious and difficult experiment, to write a story from beginning to end instead of starting in the middle. And then the unexpected parcel appears, and the snakes, and it’s heading off in all sorts of different directions. But I’m still trying, still hoping I’ll reach the intended destination.

  9. Writing a novel is like putting together a puzzle. I have the picture in front of me, so I know where it is I want to be when I’m done. And I have all these wonderful, colorful pieces–plot points, character idiosyncrasies, setting details. The joy and the challenge comes in figuring out how to place the pieces because unlike a puzzle in a box, the novel puzzle has an infinite number of pieces each with an infinite variety of shapes–kinda like shape-shifting snakes. 🙂

  10. Funny you should ask this question now, Jim. I just wrote a blog last week about how writing a novel is like planning a garden. Never considered the metaphorical possibilities of snakes in the grass…

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