Getting inside an Explosion

New London archives

school explosion in East Texas

There is an explosion in my new (third) novel. How do I write it?

It’s strange the things we manage to draw on when we’re writing. I reckon that the shock I felt when I had a small-scale kitchen explosion didn’t measure up to what explosion victims and survivors experienced. But. It’s a starting place.

For me, sometimes the best thing when it comes to bringing a scene to life is finding some kernel in my own life that I can write out of, no matter how much I may need to magnify, distort, or otherwise alter the experience.

It’s mostly about finding a way to capture an emotional truth, something that feels truly lived and therefore resonates with the reader.

There are a couple of scenes in The Knife and the Butterfly, for example, that I wrote out of memories of being awake after everyone else in a house had gone to sleep. One finds Azael sitting in the bathroom of an abandoned apartment, contemplating a message scrawled inside a cabinet.

Probably it doesn’t matter to anyone else how I imagined my way into this scene, but for me finding that link between my life and a character’s life is everything. To get Azael to think thoughts he can only have when he feels cut off from the world, I summoned that sense of unbearable silence in my grandparents’ house when everyone was asleep. I craved noise–any noise. Movement–any movement.

Maybe my kitchen explosion will be enough to help me tuck myself into my characters’ experiences.


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