LESSON Pimp Your Ride: Literary Style


[*screaming into the void intensifies*]
Original poster
Invitation Status
Looking for partners
Posting Speed
Speed of Light, Slow As Molasses
Online Availability
It varies a lot depending on my schedule, unfortunately.
Writing Levels
Advanced, Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
Primarily Prefer Male
Psychological horror
Body horror
Dark fantasy
Low fantasy
Weird West
Gothic horror
Southern Gothic
Gaslamp fantasy
Space saga
Space Western
Space opera
Modern fantasy
Crime drama
Medieval fantasy
The other day I saw an old Studebaker Champion on the road. It needed a paint job badly because it looked like it had solidly rusted over, but it was neat to see one; it's a very distinctive car in terms of body shape especially and it's a very old car. I'm not in a great area for classic cars, but occasionally I'll see one, like the very nice El Camino I found parked downtown. Unlike the Studebaker, the Camino was shiny as new. Someone obviously put a lot of work into refurbishing it.

I've always felt kind of drawn to the aesthetics and the mechanical workings of cars, and I'm guilty of writing gratuitous car descriptions in my roleplays and stories. Car porn may not be everyone's bag, but it's not necessarily a bad thing to spend a little more time thinking about the vehicles you put into your stories.

When I write characters in modern settings, I think carefully about what kind of car they drive and how they treat it. It actually says a lot about a person. Did they pick something fuel efficient? Something with a lot of horsepower? Passenger space? Whatever they thought looked cool? Do they treat their car like an extra closet or a trash can? Eat food in it or do they freak out if someone even wants to take a soda with them? Is it a cheap car, expensive, a hand-me-down? Do they know what to do if something breaks? Are they a careful driver or do they treat speed limits and road signs like suggestions? Is their car a motorcycle instead? Is the car automatic or is it an old manual? Do they even know how to drive stick? Does driving make them nervous or do they enjoy cruising the road? Do they have someone else drive them around? Own the car, borrow it, or rent it? Do they decorate the interior? How about the exterior?

Little details like this help flesh out your character and add interest. Not only does it help you to know this stuff for background, you can actually use driving scenes or scenes with a car as a way to show your READER things about the character. Treat a car like you would any other setting, not a transitional box between settings; you need to have some kind of description of the surrounding or your character is just sitting in an amorphous space. There's a lot more to talk about than you might think. Most people keep something in their car, whether it's personal items, useful things, piles of their stuff, or discarded garbage; If they keep it pristine and free of clutter, that's noteworthy too. Different cars have different kinds of interiors, and some have more up-to-date sound systems than others. Some people keep CDs or iPods in their car depending on how old it is and whether they have patience for the radio with all the commercials, so you might be able to work in clues to their musical taste as well. Just because your character is strapped to their seat (or at least is sitting in a seat) doesn't mean there's nothing for them to interact with in the car.

If you're going to put a character in a car, it should be engaging, bottom line. Otherwise whatever is happening might as well happen somewhere else.