Monday, January 10, 2011

Car Line and a Starred Review

Many of you know all about car lines. It is the line of cars that stack up when parents arrive on a campus to pickup their children from school. I am the Mom who arrives early, so I am in the front of the line. As such, I sit for quite a long time, waiting for school to be dismissed. This is when I do my reading. Other Moms--Dads, too--prefer to arrive later and end up at the back of the line. Either way, we wait about the same amount of time. Six of one, half dozen of another.

Such was the case the other day when I sat in car line waiting for school to be dismissed. I was the sixth or seventh car in line. The line behind me stretched more than twenty cars long. The bell sounded, ending school, and the line began to creep forward. However, the driver directly in front of me wasn't paying close attention. The line moved forward, but the car in front of me did not. A gap opened up. A black SUV drove past the other twenty or so cars in line, past me, past the car in front of me, and swooped into the gap. The black SUV CUT in line.

There was a moment, a very brief moment, when I thought to get out of my car and point out to the driver of the black SUV that there was a line twenty cars long and that his or her place was at the end of that line. But I didn't. Instead, upon realizing that I knew the driver of that SUV, I began to wonder what it says about a person when they cut in line. Does it reveal their character? Did the driver have an appointment that day and though she felt badly for cutting, she really had no choice? Did the driver have no intention of cutting, but when the opportunity presented itself, she took it? Did the driver feel she did not have to wait in line like the rest of us?

The writers out there will understand these questions and they'll understand why I spent the rest of my time in car line and during the drive home considering them. These are the details that build and illuminate character. I am thinking again about these questions as I begin to formulate another group of characters for another novel. Is a particular character a line-cutter or not? Will he or she cut only under extreme circumstances? Does he or she feel entitled to cut? Ashamed to cut? A line-cutter or not a line-cutter--a very good litmus test. So thank you to the black SUV for cutting in line, though I'm not sure how the other twenty or thirty cars felt about it.

On another note...I am happy to share that BENT ROAD received a starred review from Kirkus Review. More details at

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