One of my favorite writing spots is the observation deck at Scarborough Beach in Narragansett, Rhode Island. It's cool, covered, and where I wrote the entire script for my Joywriting with the Dolphins teleseminar.
Once I watched a little girl playing in the waves. She had a long, brunette braid and wore a hot pink and black wetsuit, screaming in delight as the waves teased and tickled her feet.
Each time a foamy white cap approached her, she’d jump, squeal, and bob up and down on her toes until the next wave appeared.
Sometimes she’d stand backwards with her arms outstretched, trying to anticipate when the next wave would come. Of course, it always would and it delighted her, even if it knocked her down.
But the little girl was like a buoy—she’d always bounce right back up into position. I watched as she grew more confident and walked into the ocean until her chest was covered in green, seaweed-filled water.
And then something to the far right of the girl caught my eye. Just past Point Judith Lighthouse was a line of fins. Were they sharks?
The night before I had heard a television news reporter talking about a shark sighting in the same vicinity. I watched as the fins moved closer and closer to the little girl, who was now floating on her back towards the horizon.
My heart was thumping and I dropped my pen as the fins quickly surrounded the girl. Did the lifeguards see what was happening? Could they save her?
I held my breath, too frightened to scream. Was I watching a tragedy? Should I leave the two-story observation deck and try to get the attention of somebody—anybody—who could rescue her from these man-eating sharks?
And then I saw the body of one of the fins emerge from the water and jump high into the air. These were no sharks—they were dolphins!
I watched in awe as a pod of twelve bottle-nosed dolphins encircled the child and their powerful, vibrational energy lifted her higher and higher above the water. They tossed the giggling girl from dolphin nose to dolphin nose, as if she was nothing but a plastic beach ball.
Amazing, right? Yes. And that last part—everything with the dolphins? None of it happened. Not one bit!
Sometimes I make up stuff
The truth is I allowed my imagination to run wild. It's what novelists do. So I guess you could say I lied a little. I fibbed. I exaggerated. But isn’t that what fiction is, a bending of the truth to make it more entertaining to the readers?
Storytelling is the way we teach, enlighten, and entertain. Sometimes we will embellish our tales because we don’t think our listeners/readers are equipped to emotionally handle the truth. And sometimes we do it for fun.
Her father is an archangel. A pirate ghost helps her get out of jail. She transforms into a bouncing ball on the moon.
I had a lot of fun making up things for my novels, Inn Lak'ech and Seaglass Christmas, and I'm having even more fun writing the Moonwater Beach sequel. Honestly, if I wasn't having fun, I wouldn't be doing it.
I made up stories when I began designing my wire-wrapped jewelry and was scouring beaches for the perfect seaglass. Before I wrote anything, I needed to answer some questions first. How had the glass become seaglass? Did it begin its journey as a medicine, rum or cosmetic bottle? How did it reach this destination?
To me, seaglass and life stories are synonymous. A red piece from a broken bicycle tail light reminds me of my greatest childhood escapes. An amber shard from an old beer bottle evokes memories of an abusive relationship. A deep cobalt piece from an old VapoRub jar represents my chronic bronchial issues. A pale green piece from an old Coke bottle sparks memories of cold summer showers with my favorite herbal shampoo.
As a metaphor, seaglass reflects the unpredictability of life. It is the broken pieces of our hearts. After a series of rough-and-tumble journeys through crashing waves and storms, it finally is swept onshore, a transformed gem with smoother edges, worthy of being displayed as an ornament of beauty.
Show and Tell
Have you traveled the world? Did you discover buried treasure? Have you survived cancer or taken care of someone who has? Did you raise the one kid who called for a school-wide strike or made a mess of Aisle 10 in the supermarket? You’ve got the makings of a story there!
Transport yourself to that moment in time. See yourself touching, smelling, seeing, tasting, and hearing in that particular scenario. This is what you want to convey to your readers. And don’t just tell them what happened, show them.
Let’s say you want to write about a summer road trip you took with your family. Be as specific as you can about your adventure. What’s going on outside? Did you drive past lakes and farms and “9 Miles to Stuckey’s” billboards? What’s happening inside? Is your car filled with pillows and suitcases, a traveling bingo game, and a picnic cooler? Is there an assaulting odor of sweat and feet, discarded French Fries, and smelly onion-soaked cheeseburger wrappers?
Think about the sounds of your trip. Write about the music blasting on the radio, your brother making disgusting armpit noises, and your sister singing off-key in the back seat.
Be as imaginative as you want to be, but don’t forget to dig for story gems among your own grand adventures!
First, give yourself permission to play, to imagine, and to not feel guilty about anything. Then (whether it is true or not) write and complete this sentence: The most amazing thing I ever saw was ...