Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Packing For The End

Leisha here.

It's my turn to post this week, and I'm sadly late. Not because I didn't want to post, or because I'm lazy (maybe). Or even because I died of heat stroke. I'm late because I've been pondering what to write.

Recently my neighborhood had a fire scare. Nothing like Colorado, but the fire was very close to some homes. Fire + dry grass and trees + gusty wind = big flames. And that means evacuations. My family wasn't evacuated, but some of our neighbors were. We packed just in case.

When you see flames framing your friends' homes in a demonic embrace, you pack fast. And it's amazing what becomes important.

Here's what we decided to take:


My computer
Photo Albums


Important documents
Family pictures

Kid A:

Art portfolio
Art supplies

Kid B and C:

ipads and one irreplaceable stuffed elephant named Baby

Kid D:

Loads of toys, stuffed animals, books, blankets, trinkets, keepsakes, drawings, and enough tears to fill a swimming pool. Poor kid.

For most of us, everything perishable faded away as unimportant. We didn't even grab clothes. Clothes you can replace. It was like those flames simplified everything down to what we couldn't get back.

What does a wildfire have to do with writing? More than you would think.

It could have been the end for a lot of homes if it wasn't for amazing fire personnel and a hefty dose of divine intervention. It was kind of like the climax at the end of a book. As writers, we have to make that moment when things look the worst count.

We need to pack the right things into the ending. Things we can't do without. And we need to cut the extras, things like twenty stuffed animals, six boxes of crayons, and a pile of Legos. 

The thing is, as writers, we're a lot like Kid D. We love our stuff, our words, our scenes. Each one is important to us. But that doesn't mean you can fit them all into the end. And sometimes we cry just like Kid D when we learn we can't cram all of our stuff into the car.

So, my question for you is, what would you take if you had five minutes to evacuate? And more importantly, what do you really need to keep in your story? What can't you do without? 



  1. I'm glad your house didn't get caught in the fire - there's been enough of that already this summer. And I'm sorry it was traumatic to Kid D - wow. What a brilliant tie into writing the ends of our stories. I get it. Yup, I have too much stuff at the end of mine and I need to think 'evacuate'. Great post, Leisha!

    1. Poor Kid D indeed. But, it all ended well, thank Heaven. :)

  2. Once again Leisha, a FANTASTIC POST! Just what I needed to hear. And I too am glad your house didn't burn down.

    1. I'm glad, too. Having a house is a very nice thing. I heart firefighters, just saying. :)

      And thanks.

  3. I love this post!! So perfect, and what a wonderful analogy. And THANK GOD your story ended like fiction, with everything okay and a lesson to boot.

    Great stuff!

    1. Thanks. :) I'm very grateful for both the happy ending and the lesson learned.

  4. Fire is the scariest thing I would never want to imagine. I think I would have to pack the photo albums first. Possibly my computer if I thought of it. Truthfully, I don't know if that would be a priority, although I suppose if I had TIME to pack, that might make it into the back seat of the car. Poor Kid D, he's a lot like my Monster. She'd have every stuffed animal and Barbie doll. Glad you're all safe.

    1. Monster sounds like she's a kindred spirit. :)

      Pictures become so important, don't they? That's one of the main reasons I packed my computer. I have thousands of pics stored on there. Seeing my daughter swim with sea turtles and videos of first steps are moments I don't want to lose.

  5. Not a hypothetical for me. My hometown's been evacuated twice for forest fires (Los Alamos, NM). My parents took the tax records and family albums. In the end, the house was spared, though everything across the street and behind us was torched.

    In writing, the more I do the more I realize that you absolutely have to keep the most emotionally evocative plot elements. THey are what sell books. Even if they pull you off your original plan, retool the plan.

    1. I'm so glad your family escaped both property damage and injury.

      I agree with the emotion comment. If the reader doesn't FEEL with your character, they don't connect. Awesome insight.


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