Updated: May 29
I’ve been driving in Los Angeles since I was sixteen and am pretty confident that I can find any location by memory, MapQuest, or GPS. Los Angeles’ highways and byways are as familiar to me as the back of my manicured hand. Give me an address and I’m there. However, that wasn’t the case while I was in Atlanta earlier this month. One of my best friends was graduating from Trichology School and I was there to support her as well as spend some time with my relatives.
When planning the trip, I decided that I didn’t want to be a burden on anyone, so I reserved a rental car with navigation. I have to admit I was filled with trepidation during the days leading up to the trip. Unlike Los Angeles, I had only been to Atlanta once and I was a passenger in my aunt and uncle’s car the entire time, paying little or no attention to landmarks or where we were going. So needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive about my upcoming trip and my ability to get to my various destinations, especially at night.
Upon landing I checked into the rental agency and received a little pouch containing my navigation system. My first mistake was not reading the directions before leaving the airport. I just keyed in my aunt and uncle’s address and drove away. If I had taken the time to read the instructions, I would have realized that my packet did not contain the mount. And thus, I was not able to position the navigation system onto the dashboard. As a back-up, I had hardcopy MapQuest directions, but I soon learned that having no familiarity with the freeways rendered my GPS and MapQuest directions useless. I felt like a blind woman driving in a foreign country.
I started going south on 85, but unbeknownst to me, the freeway wasn’t a straight shot. I had to veer left at times to pick it up where it continued, but unfortunately the exits would come up so fast, I would miss them. I actually missed one of the exits twice and ended up on entirely different freeways, going the wrong way. After countless phone calls to my worried relatives, I would get to my various destinations. This became a routine occurrence the entire four days I was there. I finally concluded that you have to know the lay of the land to successfully utilize verbal and or written directions, especially when driving solo.
This need for familiarity struck me deeply, because it made me think about the five novels I’ve written. Two have been published, the most recent is on submission, and its sequel and third in the series are waiting in the wings. A novel, like a trip, goes from point A to point B and readers depend on me go get them from the beginning of the story and through the journey to the end of the story, with confidence and creativity. The destination of the protagonist in my debut novel, “Daughter Denied,” was very clear to me, because the book was loosely based on my childhood. And it was a cinch getting my protagonist Shelia in my second work, “Dancing Her Dreams Away” to her destination, because like Shelia, I also pursued acting. The protagonists in my other three novels have interesting journeys as well, journeys that I can relate to and thus write about with power and emotion. And like my experience in the ATL, none of their journeys are entirely smooth. There’s plenty of bumps and road kill along the way in the form of plot twists and turns.
Although I got lost several times while in the ATL, I’m proud of myself for stepping out and making the effort. Heck, I was on vacation, so it was all good. Each time I write a book, I also have to step out on faith. There’s no guarantee that the story’s going to develop and unfold into what I have in my head and there’s no guarantee that readers will connect to my protagonist. The only thing I can do is do my best and let everything fall in place, GPS or no GPS.