(Original publication September 25, 2014.)
Several years ago a good friend of mine told me that I should write down a lot of my adventures because I had lived such an adventurous life. Then a year or so ago, a good friend of mine (and former high school Spanish student who is very gifted in all things computer) after having run my web-site for several years suggested that I write a blog.
I agreed as I thought it might help the sales of my books, which seem to be coming out about one a year. At first I thought I should write a “how to” blog on screenwriting tips and writing readability in general. This lasted for about the first dozen or so blogs. Slowly but surely my blog went from the art of how to get words onto a page to a series of personal adventures. Instead of writing grammatical rules and script writing techniques, I finally found my niche—life adventures that one can translate to the written page.
Most people when they think of the word adventure, they think of something exciting and unusual. It may also be a bold, usually risky undertaking with an uncertain outcome. The term also broadly refers to any enterprise that is potentially fraught with physical, financial or psychological risk such as a business venture or other major life undertaking.
Since I changed over to “adventure writing”, you will obviously have noticed that my stories are all over the map literally—some high adventures and some quite small and home grown. For example: My adventures in growing up in Okolona, Mississippi; my adventures with some of my relatives and people I have known; my adventures in foreign lands and situations, my selling Fitzgerald’s Happiness Tonic.
In my blogs, I show how I have used all of these adventures in my writing. I really don’t have to sit and dream up plot complications. The way I have lived my life is enough to just pluck an adventure from my memory and transfer it to one of my screenplays, novels or stage plays.
I suppose I have been trying to show that if you want to become a writer, you must live first—that means get an undergraduate degree from the University of the World and a Graduate degree from the University of Hard Knocks. I have degrees from both. Actually this is what my friend was suggesting: Write down some of your coursework at both of those universities.
A couple of years ago I attended a high school reunion in my hometown of Okolona, Mississippi. I reunited with my best friend growing up. We were inseparable for all those teenage years. Then at age 19 we separated; he went to a Christian Bible School to become a preacher and I went off to Mexico, California, the Army, and a wide range of adventures in life. At that reunion, we hadn’t seen one another for 55 years. Even so, we took back up in our chatting like it had only been a weekend ago that we had seen one another. He told me after a bit, “You certainly have lived an adventurous life.” Then the next day from the pulpit after introducing me to his congregation he said, “Jack went to Hollywood and I went to Jesus Christ.” In a way, I suppose he was saying Jesus was the sum total of his adventure in life and mine was Hollywood and the worldly universe.
Adventurous living is where you put your neck out on the firing line of life. Which is the real adventure in life: Walking around in Rome searching for a cheap pension or taking a taxi from Rome’s airport to the Hilton where you have a reservation? Financial considerations may have forced you into the former—meaning you’re broke and traveling by the seat of your pants. The latter might mean your idea of adventure is playing ersatz movie star. Which would most people enjoy hearing about? The pension you finally found or how elegant the Hilton was. Who is the real adventurer?
Recently at a meeting of the Prime Timers, a group I belong to, I heard a guy tell about the trip he just got back from. It was one “fabulous” hotel and meal after another. His listeners grew weary after five minutes. Problem. No adventure. In writing, adventure equals plot. It’s that simple.
I know that a lot of things I write about sound like high adventure and many of them are—like being caught up in the Cuban Revolution—like being arrested in East Berlin for black market currency dealing—like hitch hiking and getting picked up by some army guys who had stolen a car and were awol, etc. etc.
High Adventure is where one is involved in a bit of danger or where your livelihood is at stake or you are taking a big chance of some kind. Those are the most popular adventures we like to hear about. However, we can make life an adventure on a much smaller level. I remember when I was young there was a Hillbilly comedienne named Minnie Pearl out of The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN. She was pretty much the country Joan Rivers of her day. She could make ordinary happenings hilarious. In the process, she became famous and wealthy and beloved.
So you see, adventure is where you find it. Some people get it in the kitchen. Julia Child made omelets an adventure and caught millions of people up in her world.
So just like my friend when he told me to put some of my adventures down on paper, I’m telling you the same thing. Put some of your adventures down on paper. You’ve had as many as I have but maybe just in your own way. You can keep them to yourself or you can share them—and then if they are interesting enough, they become adventures for others!
Adventure is where you find it and most importantly, what you make of it.
Cheers, put a little adventure in your life today. As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
My next adventure? Well, that would be my next book, Murder Impossible, coming out this November. (Note: Murder Impossible is now out and available.)