Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What's in Your Van? -- Robin

Yesterday I was sitting at my computer pulling my hair out trying to finish the last paragraph of my rewrite on my middle grade novel. The problem was that I had to change the ending completely since I had altered the timeline. So the old ending just didn’t make sense. And endings are very important.

It needed to be just as punchy. Just as funny. And kinda brilliant. And thus…me sitting at my computer pulling my hair out.

Then I remembered something that my good friend Jay once told me: Don’t dance in public anymore.

He also told me another story that’s actually related to all of this. He said that he once read an article about the guy who wrote the movie Little Miss Sunshine. Apparently, while he was writing it, there was a scene that he couldn’t figure out how to resolve. Remember when they’re in the van and they get pulled over by the cop and then the cop lets them go because of something he finds in the back of the van? (I won’t say what he finds in the back of the van because it’s a little vulgar and this is a family operation here.)

Well, while he was writing it, he knew he needed the cop to let the family go, but he couldn’t figure out how to do it. Then a friend told him to write down everything that was in the van. Maybe the answer was already in there. So that’s what he did, and there…sitting in the back of the van…was his answer. Yes, vulgar, but oh so perfect!

I remembered this “What’s in your van?” story yesterday while rewriting my ending. I knew there had to be the perfect word, the perfect prop, and the perfect reason for it to end, you know…perfectly.

So I kept asking myself, “What’s in my van? What’s in my van?” (Only my story isn’t about a van, it’s about middle school, but it was still helpful.) And sure enough, when I kept digging around in the story a little more, the answer…and my ending…was already there.

So, what’s in your van?

- Robin

Okay, just for kicks, let’s see what’s in my van literally. Hang on, I’m going out to my mini-van right now to see what’s in it. Okay, I’m back inside (it was cold out there!). Here’s what’s in my van:

Chapstick, coffee mug, pens, hand lotion, CD holder, stacks of papers from work, overdue library books, a stuffed shark, jacket, shoes, backpack, sand toys, a plastic dinosaur, a bag of new clothes from Kohl’s that I’ll sneak into the house later, sunglasses, oops--more overdue library books, a dog leash, some hardened raisins, and a half empty water bottle that Evie left in there on Sunday (thanks for gunking my van up, Eve!!)

Maybe I’ll call my movie Little Miss Packrat!


Disco Mermaids said...

Two backpacks for hiking, one empty cooler, two pairs of rollerblades, a trash bag filled with my wife's funkiest hats, and...ooh!...a gift certif for a pound of See's Candies.

Thanks for making me look, Robin!

- Jay

(We don't have a lot of storage at our place, so our trunks double as closets.)

Steph said...

Ha! Great anticdote! Let's say though, that you drive a little 2 door Nissan?

That Story reminds me of when I'm looking for my glass- classic, they are usually perched on my forehead.

Rita said...


Food for thought. Thanks!!


Emily Jiang said...

Stuff in my beetle: My choir bag with my choir music and performance folder, my giant a cappella binder stuffed with music, 5 empty water bottles, my fleece jacket, a tape deck connector thingie that I got for my ipod but my car's tape deck doesn't like it, 2 different yummy-smelly lotions, my dancing shoes, an old chapter of an old draft of a WIP, paper napkins, my gold sandals with 2 broken straps but I can't get rid of them because I bought them last year in India, a box that used to hold books, yesterday I rescued a bag of melted chocolates - whoops - they still tasted good, my dress shoes that make me 3 inches taller, 2 smiley-happy stuffed-animal flowers (the kind you win at a carnival), 1 small fake sunflower (the kind you get at a craft store), and a book called Narrative Design.

Great question, Robin, and clearly I'm a packrat, too (beetles are surprisingly spacious because they are round). But the more specific and concrete your details, the better your story, right? My haiku highlights of Susan Patron's talk has a somewhat similar concept.

cynjay said...

One bat bag, two muddy cleats, 16 "locker" bins, two camp chairs, 1 empty water bottle ( it baseball season or something?)one pair of rollerblades-hey Jay!- three tubes of lipstick, none of which are the right shade, two empty sunglass cases (wish I knew where the glasses were) four M&Ms, two Skittles and one lonely hot Cheeto. Two dollars for bridge tolls (which are now up to $4) and change for parking.

I get what you mean about the van though. My MG wasn't originally called Armadillo Season. When I was looking for a title, I just went through the book and lo and behold there was a whole symbolic armadillo theme going on that I hadn't intentionally put in at first. It's always funny how people think that writers create stuff - we're not in charge at all.

Colorado Writer said...

First of all. I am not admitting anything, but IF I had a minivan, it would hold 2 nasty, sticky car seats, a DVD player, a bag of trash, a pack of gum, some emergency candy, 1 or maybe 2 gnarly sippy cups, a bunch of pens, a flashlight, an umbrella, a first aid kit, some small picture books, a few matchbox cars, a diaper bag, an extra diaper, a little pillow, some CD's a water bottle and miscellaneous "teen" things in the backseat.

Aside from the real items in my real van, this is great! Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

This blog isn't big enough to list everything that's in my car! And I'm not writing a story in which I need to find a way to resolve a scene, but still, this was interesting. Especially the part about Eve leaving a water bottle in your car - she ALWAYS yells at me for leaving water bottles in her car, then I calmly explain that if we're ever stranded, those half-empty, bacteria-filled plastic vessels will save our lives. Same with the chapstick. Lamy

Disco Mermaids said...

Wow! I'm not the only person who uses their vehicle as a second home!

And Jay, can I have some See's candies? Just a half pound will do.

Natalie said...

My van has everything from snack crumbs to sippy cups and shoes to Barbies. Here in Italy, most people's cars are spotless, because Italians don't eat in their cars, making my van even more of a disgrace. Robin, have you seen this link?

It pretty much sums up what our minivan is like.


Disco Mermaids said...

I have to admit, looking through my car, all I can find is one unopened box of tissues under my seat (in case of allergy emergency)! Seriously, how anal am I? Never thought I'd say it...I've become my mother. (Not that that's a bad thing. She's the neatest/cleanest person on the planet, next to my dad.)

This is an interesting sociology observation...the junk in people's cars/vans really says a lot about the person.

Jay- outdoorsy, active and loves the show "Blossom"...or maybe that's all his wife's stuff.

Robin- dedicated mother, multi-tasker, well-fed, well-hydrated

Emily- musical/creative, sentimental, smells good

Eve- nightmare OCD-girl

Fun post, Ro-mo!