I was watching the original Salem’s Lot movie recently, an old favorite of mine. The protagonist is a writer, a fact that had never had any bearing on my enjoyment of the story until now. The movie begins with the main character driving back to the hometown of his youth, and he stops his car to stare at the one large house that was always thought to be haunted. Imaginative and frightful memories of the house, and the dares of boyhood friends to see who could go into the abandoned house and come back out, had not dissipated over time. The man had an idea in his head of what made the house haunted and now was returning to his hometown to write about it.
The story aside, which is a great beginning that can go anywhere in people’s minds, I’m interested in the role of the writer in the story. Returning home without any plans or any ties to anything. Presumably no family (or at least none mentioned for the relevance of this story) or obligations to mention, like house payments, bills, etc. I know it’s not important to the story, but I like dwelling on it nonetheless. He just packs a bag and his typewriter into his jeep and drives to his old home town, looking for a place to stay. He didn’t call ahead to see if there was any vacancy, but tells the person in charge of a local boarding house that he plans on staying there five or six months and that he’s a writer.
The concept of just dropping everything and going somewhere to write is fascinating to me, perhaps because it’s something that would be impossible for me. I’m referring to the bindings of life and daily schedules. I often see these types of departures in the stories I read, which are Edgar Allan Poe’s at the moment. These adventures of characters with seemingly unlimited time at their disposal are also found in a lot of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle whose Sherlock Holmes stories I reread from time to time. Lots of characters that can go somewhere for months without the financial obligations to keep them wherever they were previously. It’s a very compelling part of fiction that is fun to ruminate upon. I think the adventure for the character is an escape that can be experienced by the writer as well as the reader. The freedom to just up and go like that is such a great catalyst for creativity.
In Salem’s Lot, the writer went to the place he was going to write about and had a moment to stare at the house that had filled him with fright as a boy, and remained to mystify and haunt him as a man. I love the idea and can easily see the characters I think about in various places around the city I live and work in. If I were free of my job I would undoubtedly do it more, spending more time finding new places to add to my mind’s eye when I write.
If you could snap your fingers and just up and go to a place you’d write about, where would you go?