The Notebook: The portable tool

Notes in a Moleskine notebook
Image via Wikipedia

I talk a lot about carrying 3×5 cards with you to jot down scene ideas.  Just as important is your portable notebook.  Sometimes you need to write more than what can be held on a card or two.  Any portable size notebook that is easy to carry with you is good.  I use a Moleskine® because it has a ribbon bookmark so I can open up to the next blank page and just start writing; and a pocket in the back for collecting small paper items.  I carry it in my bag along with other items so I also appreciate the elastic band attached on the back that slips over to keep it shut.

Yesterday I was out running errands.  The temple piece on my reading glasses broke I took it in to the local eyeglass repair man.  The last time I was there I was the only customer.  In five minutes my hinge was replaced and I was gone.  Yesterday when I walked in the waiting room was crowded with about 15 people.  I decided to wait.  A chair opened up and I sat down.  Another chair opened up and a woman sat down next to me.  She was there with four children who were sitting on the floor.

I’d been pondering how to make my villain give two messages at the same time.  All of a sudden the woman stood up grabbed one of the children and…here some jottings from my notebook:

Double Message

“Come here little skinny bird.”  Mother scoops up 6-year-old boy and holds him in her lap.  Arms wrapped around him in a tight hold she gives him a pat on the back.

“Look at your hair.  It is too long.”  Pat. Pat.  Still in strangle hold.

“Let me see your finger.  It’s dirty.  You rubbed your eye and got it dirty.”  Hug and a pat.

“Yuck!  Your feet are dirty.  You got so dirty at the playground.”  Pat.  (The child was not particularly dirty.  His clothes were clean.  In fact, he was fairly clean for a child who had been out playing.)

“When we get home everyone will have to take a bath.  That dirt is disgusting.”  Pat. Pat. Hug.

Everything this person said was negative.  Not one positive comment. But the appearance was a loving parent holding her child while giving hugs and gentle pats on the back.  This child is going to grow up with some inner conflict.

I probably won’t be using the exact transaction in a story.  However, the illustration of physical manipulation in a seemingly loving  manner combined with a series of negative comments is great grist for the mill.  It will go into my folder of various behavior examples.

Keep the notebook handy.  It’s a great way to capture incidents on the spot that will flesh out your story details.

2 thoughts on “The Notebook: The portable tool

  1. I’m kind of obsessed with notebooks, I can’t imagine my life without them 🙂 I don’t have the strongest memory so they come in really handy. Your post is a great example of the fact that an opportunity for a story, a scene or the basis of a character can appear anywhere, anytime and if I don’t have my notebook with me the ideas just fly out of my head…


    1. Yes, the notebook is a great memory jog for details. You might think the incident will stay in your mind but two years later if you look at a brief note–like one on a 3×5 card–that says controlling negative parenting–the vivid details are lost. I love my Timbuk2 bag classic messenger bag. It’s not very “girly” but everything fits including my notebook, pens, cards and usually the current book. I’m not sure how guys take the notebook with them but I know Guillermo del Toro has been using his notebooks since an early age.


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