A Graveyard Writing Shift

Living in rural New York, I often drive the countryside for writing inspiration.   This particular day, I needed to find a way to kill one of my characters.   I wanted something unique for her death.

Suddenly, my car’s ball joint snapped and twisted the front wheel perpendicular to the car.  The car screeched to a halt, opposite a graveyard.   How fitting.   Could my character die in a car wreck?  No way.  Too cliché.

As I waited for the tow truck, a flurry of tornado-warning emails filled my cell.  I’m not an alarmist, so I ignored them, until the winds swirled faster and faster.  I was a sitting duck.  I glanced over at the graveyard wondering if God was trying to kill me… or just send me a message.

Should this tornado come, there was no way I’d survive in the car or fully exposed outside.  Why didn’t I watch that survivor episode on The Discovery Channel?

Think. Think. Think.  How could I find safety in the middle of nowhere?  The graveyard.  I grabbed a rope from my car and ran across, planning to tie myself to a gravestone.  Yes, you read that right.   I may be calm under pressure, but I didn’t say I was smart.

Whose stone would I choose: a man’s, a woman’s, or a child’s?  Who would I want to die with?

As my hair spun in the wind, I pulled it from my eyes to read the names and dates on the stones.  My imagination ran wild.  I became swept into the stories buried with these people.  Maybe he died in a shoot out.  Perhaps she died in childbirth or at the hands of a jealous lover.  Stories were popping in my head.  My body was in peril, but the writer inside me was on fire.

Like a lunatic, I lurked gravestones while the threat of the tornado was still buzzing in my pocket.  Is this how Geraldo felt revealing King Tuts tomb?  Maybe someone would find my dead body the next day.

There should be a warning label on notepads: “Writing can be deadly.”

The winds whipped, literally smashing me into gravestones as I searched for the one I’d connect to, both emotionally and physically.   Then, I discovered the old section of the graveyard.  The stones were riddled with details.  Such art.

As I admired the carvings on the delicate stone, a tree branch snapped and flew past, almost crashing into me.    I glanced toward my car to see the large SUV rocking in the heavy winds.  Time to stop admiring and start graveyard bondage.

While the old stones were more to my artistic taste, I couldn’t tie myself to a wuss headstone.  I needed a big, gaudy monument.  I ran toward the largest one I could find, the wind forcing me into a zig-zag path.

Just as I found the perfect dead person to join in all eternity, the tow truck pulled alongside my car.   I raced to my hero of wreckage.

As my mechanic secured the car on the flatbed, I snatched my notepad and frantically wrote, “Idea: girl passes up delicate gravestone for a sturdier, safer and massive monument.  Ties herself down.  Winds howl.  Suddenly, the delicate gravestone is yanked from the ground.  She smiles, happy not to have chosen it… until it heads her way, smashes into her, and kills her.”

Now that is what I call a unique death.

I’ve decided to make graveyards a part of my writing inspiration routine.  Next time, however, I’ll choose a lovely sunny day, admire the beautiful ornate stones and see what other stories rise from the dead.

A graveyard can be the perfect resurrection for creativity.

*originally published in Making Me Magazine

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