Monday, September 3, 2007

Yesterday we drove the two hours to the Elko County Fair to watch the finals of the cowhorse competition and the team branding competition. We have always loved the Elko area, and driving through that country reminded me of the actual incidents that became the seeds of Chapter 1. Maggie Creek Ranch, just outside Carlin, 20 miles west of Elko, was the location of the fence-crashing (which I believe I have on videotape), and is the ranch I saw in my mind as I started writing the story, although I'm sure I've changed it quite a bit.

The ground squirrel escapade is a combination of two events. One was very similar to the scene in the book. Another originated on a family outing to our favorite fishing and canoeing spot, Angel Lake, 12 miles south of Wells, a scenic little pocket at an elevation of 8500 in the Ruby Mountains. Chipmunks abound there and are bold enough to sneak right into your picnic lunch. Our boys would lay down and let the chipmunks scamper over their bodies, trying to not laugh from the tickling, as the chipmunks retrieved strategically placed potato chips.

One day a chipmunk darted right into the potato chip bag, and our son snatched up the bag, holding it tightly closed. My husband grabbed a piece of fishing line, tied a slipknot in the end, and held it over the mouth of the bag while our son slowly opened the bag. When the chipmunk emerged, he found himself caught in the noose, which quickly tightened around his neck and one front leg.

Hitting the ground, he leaped and somersaulted, squeaking indignantly--I could swear he jumped two or three feet in the air. Meanwhile my silly husband carried on like he had a wild horse on the end of a halter rope. "Whoa there, big boy! Easy, fella!" We all laughed so hard we were crying. What I wouldn't give to have THAT on videotape, but wouldn't you know it, that was the ONE day I'd left my camera in the pickup on the other side of the lake.

So you see how a writer can take various unrelated true-life incidents, combine or change them a little or a lot, and create a fictional incident. I'm sure some writers can create characters and incidents completely from their own imaginations, but I am not that imaginative. Most of my characters and incidents originated from real people and events, which helps me to write about them in a detailed and believable way.