’m a writer. And I’m also a model railroader. Yes, I play with trains.
Actually, in my case, model railroading is every bit as story-filled as writing. For example, we are currently finishing up a Dairy Queen restaurant on part of our sectional layout. There was discussion on how to make it stand out, to be more than just a model of a road-side business. So the result was to put
a whole bunch of motorcycles out front, parked in a row. And around the corner, before the outside “Men’s” room door, a line of a dozen desperate bikers, all in their leathers, all waiting their turn in quiet frustration.
Someone even commented on the way we lined the bikes up. True bikers back in – so they can get away quicker. We just smiled. In our “story”, one can imagine these bikers after a hundred miles of kidney-pounding travel, all angling at once into the Dairy Queen parking lot. No time for clever backing in. Everyone just nosed in, vaulted out of their saddles and ran for the head. And there they stand in their kidney-aching line.
Across our layout, there are many stories. A deer hunter watchful in his raised blind, not aware of the cluster of deer directly below him. A cop just across the Georgia/Florida border, having pulled over a car (an obvious speed trap when you take the entire scene in). And the sub-story – the car is a good representation of my own Mini Cooper. There is our massive wedding party (147 figures) with the Blue Man group a few rows back (the kid painting them said that after 144 figures, he just said, “The hell with it” and painted the last three figures blue. At the same wedding, there is a guy running in from the parking lot – there is always someone late to a wedding.
We have a sailboat in the Jacksonville river with a couple of lubbers at the helm, the sails rattling loose. A moonshine still in the deep woods. A kayaker on a stretch of river that we modeled off a kayaker’s blog. Guys working on the roof of a skyscraper. The smokers huddled at the employee picnic table outside the saw mill.
Stories aren’t just about writing. They are about image-crafting. And even in a story with words, there can be unspoken stories, tropes, implications and whatnot.
Don’t make your background (or your scenery) flat – give it a story!