It was a ten hour drive that prompted my friend to ask me if the bowl of chili we were eating was worth the drive. The kitchen was filled with the aroma of peppers, garlic, assorted spices and the secret ingredient. Flavours danced on my tongue. The muted roar of the race reached us from the television set in the living room. A grin lit the face of a friend I hold dear. Of course the chili was worth the drive.
On the excruciatingly long drive home through severe thunderstorms I thought about my answer. With only CDs by Spirit of the West, The Tea Party and the soundtracks to Cars and Dreamgirls to keep me company, I thought a lot.
Barnes and Noble where we studied each other's selections was worth the drive. Watching the cat return time and again for a chin scratch even though he got a shock every single time he touched me was worth the drive. Going to see the movie 300 together (scantily clad men for me, scantily clad women for him, scantily clad men for me, violence for him) was well worth the drive. Shopping in a grocery store with so much selection it boggled my mind was worth the drive. A Discovery channel marathon of "Dirty Jobs" was worth the drive. Getting to know a good friend better was worth the drive.
Then I thought about how all of the above related to Alex and Nea(what did you expect? This is a writing blog after all) Writing is almost always about the journey, not the destination. Characters think the story is about their goal - reaching the chili so to speak. Readers want to know how the characters reach their destination. What sacrifices they make, how they interact, grow and change each other in the process of attaining their goal. As writers we have to make that journey as entertaining and suspenseful as possible for the reader. The drive must be worth it or they will stop the car and get out.
I plotted my route home with the help of Mapquest,The Weather Channel and one of those old-fashioned, folding papers with lines, squiggles and numbers on it(road map). A cup of tea and bottle of water were placed in the cup holders. I broke my no-food-in-the-car rule and filled the front seat with snacks (I don't recommend peeling your own banana while you drive,that's what navigators are for)The gas tank was full.
As with writing, all the plotting and planning had to move aside for the unexpected glitches that made the journey more interesting. The torrential downpour that lasted through four states, turned into sleet and made the driving treacherous. The car's reluctance to shift gears while making the upward climb north through the Pennsylvania hills. A missed turn for the gas station, detours for construction, a long line of haulers and the frantic blinking of the low fuel indicator. I had to adjust my plan, stretch my brain and stay focused on my goal - to get home safely.
Nea wants to drag Alex into hell as her playmate. I drove the route this weekend. Alex wants to get back to Belize and his old life. I saw a road sign for that trip. Neither one of them will reach their destination. Despite four days of exploring, there's still so much for me to discover. But for all of us, yes, it's been worth the drive.
The chili was delicious.