Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, What happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming?
– Eudora Welty
I don’t have a car and don’t drive so I have to take public transit to get to locations for my book readings (unless out of town). Public transit can include subways and streetcars, but mostly it has been on Toronto buses. Besides opening my eyes to new areas of Toronto and getting around in them, what I experience can conjure up story settings, characters and even plots.
For a couple of library readings I had to change buses at the Warden subway station. The bus bays here are open at both ends and could be very windy. Because the bays resemble a somewhat dark tunnel (lights on at night) it conjures up stories of someone or something menacing suddenly appearing at one end of the tunnel. There are nine bus bays so a chase scene between victim and suspect or cop and suspect can be easily imagined. Throw in a bus or two entering or exiting a bus bay and you have a different take on the chase scenes that occur between and against cars on busy streets..
The bus stop at the other end for both library branches wasn’t right by the library. One was at an intersection of three major roads – very busy and on the dark and not stormy night I returned home – cold. I stayed in the bus shelter, hoping I was at the right stop and my bus would arrive soon before any strange person in this unfamiliar area came by. It all worked out okay and I even made an immediate bus transfer at the Warden station. A subsequent trip to this library branch for another reason was in daylight and although the weather wasn’t warmer, the difference in atmosphere was palpable – from blackness to sunny brightness. This contrast could make for a great setting to perhaps show the main character going through a somewhat familiar area in daylight but how menacing it becomes at night, especially if a weird person shows up at the bus stop. Or maybe someone from a car tries to grab her. You can use your imagination.
The other bus ride from this Warden Station was 40 minutes up to the north end of Toronto. I did this run early afternoon. The scenery was a mixture of bungalows, apartment buildings and plazas. Nothing really interesting on the surface. The interest was inside the bus – it was a good representation of all ages and cultures in Toronto. Throw in large baby strollers and bungle buggies (not the wheelies) taking up space on a crowded bus and you could conjure up a story of conflict between some passengers, especially if the protagonist has no other way to get around with her twins and the antagonist hates strollers on buses. (This is an issue in Toronto).
Another bus route took me through the older well-kept homes in the Leaside area of Toronto – some green grass with spring just awakening – all of it filled me with peace. But what if your main character was riding home on the bus in this quiet area when the doors open at a stop and a passenger steps in, then pulls out a gun, and starts firing.
So, the next time you take public transit (even underground) notice your surroundings. They can provide the setting for your next story and kick-start a plot with original characters. Just don’t get too carried away and miss your stop.
Upcoming events with Beyond the Tripping Point readings:
This evening, Thursday, May 16, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Crime & Mystery Writing Panel
Moderating a panel of mystery novelists on plot and characters especially when police enter the picture. Presented by the Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch and featuring Crime Writers of Canada authors, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
- Brent Pilkey http://www.brentpilkey.com/ author of the Rage novels who, as a police constable with Toronto Police Services, has an inside view of police procedure; and
- Rick Blechta http://www.rickblechta.com/ whose novels aren’t exactly cozies — all have main characters involved in the music industry and when murder enters their lives, come into contact with the police.
Thursday, May 23, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Sharon A. Crawford hosts a Crime Writers of Canada Books ‘n’ Beverages reading at Q Space
Join these CWC authors as they read from their latest crime (fiction and fact) books, Meet and mingle, have a drink, something to eat and buy some books.
Simone St. James
Sharon A. Crawford
Location: 382 College St., Toronto, Ontario
More info about these authors at http://crimewriterscanada.com/
More upcoming gigs listed at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html
And for those who can’t make these events check out my videos – one link to all three now.
Beyond the Tripping Point now has two reviews on my amazon.com account. Click on the book cover at the top. If you’ve read the book and made any recent purchase from amazon.com you can add your review if you wish.
And I haven’t forgotten about the readings with the Grade 7 classes – all 42 students. Coming up in a future post.
Sharon A. Crawford