Friday, March 30, 2012

GPS or Map?

Which do you use to plot your course?

(Before I explore that question, I need to thank my guest blogger, Blackberry the cat, for re-inspiring me. I’m sure she will return from time to time. But since she uses maps for naps, I’ll post on this topic today.)

A car trip is kind of like writing a novel. You start here. You end over there. In between are so many routes you could take, it’s probably a good idea to make some kind of plan before you start.

Thanks to satellites we can’t even see, the Global Positioning System knows where you are and the location of where you want to go. GPS will insist, in a polite but firm voice, that you turn where it tells you. If you stray, it will “recalculate” and tell you again. Of course you can disobey its commands. Once my husband Lee thwarted the GPS so many times that it shut down. He is the exception. Most people are grateful for its advice.

If the goal were just to arrive at the end where the monster is killed and the lovers get married, then GPS probably works best.

But I love maps. I always have. I like solving the puzzle of navigation. I like making the leap from the two dimensional view to where I am in the world. I like to look at maps even when I’m not going anywhere. I like to see where I might go. I love the names of places. The Great Dismal Swamp. Jenny Jump Mountain, Promised Land Lake. The town of Porcupine. And just to the south of it, South Porcupine.

Yesterday I reached the end of a draft. I was so happy when the ending I envisioned flowed from the previous chapters. I had gotten from the start to the finish. But I had not stuck to my plan. Sometimes the characters took detours. Sometimes they decided, hey, why not take a trip to the ocean because I can see from the map that we’re pretty close to the beach. Would GPS have told me that?

With a novel, the journey is always about more than reaching the destination.

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