Bridges and Connections and How We Make ’em

Recently, I was talking with another aspiring novelist at a networking event, and she asked,   “Do you write scenes for your novel out of order, then connect them later?”

Well, yeah…often I can picture every detail of a scene so clearly that I feel compelled to write it, even if I don’t know where it fits in the big picture.  But the connection will be there, and finding that connection is part of the adventure of creating a story.

Sometimes the characters themselves led me.  I had a fairly detailed outline for Counteract, and my characters usually stuck to the script, but every now and then one of them, (usually Tommy or Careen), would stray off the path and I’d wonder just what they had in mind, then all of a sudden, bam!  The connection was there.  The moment was real, a plot twist appeared out of the blue, and the story was better than what I had originally planned.

A character would give me that teenagery look.  “Duh—that’s what I would’ve done, right?”   And I would agree.  Then I would usually do some sort of happy dance or high-five myself for imagining bright and wonderful characters who could think for themselves.

Though I’m writing fiction now, I’m still spending a great deal of time promoting and speaking about my nonfiction book, and I saw a connection.  I jumped back to some of the cool stuff I’d learned on that project and asked my new friend, “Have you ever heard of S bridges?”

She had not.

There are several S bridges in Ohio, most located east of Zanesville along the old sections of the National Road.  This road, America’s first federally funded highway, was one of the most important of the network of roads and canals constructed in the early part of the 19th century.  In 1825, engineers, surveyors, and road crews massed at the Ohio/Virginia border with pickaxes and shovels and those little hammers you use to break up rocks, set up a bunch of orange barrels, and worked their way west from Wheeling to Columbus.  (Just kidding about the orange barrels.  They used oak barrels in those days).

Anyhow, the engineering crews that built bridges were dispatched ahead of the road crews.  They trudged off into the wilderness with survey maps, followed the proposed route, and when they came to a stream or a creek, they built a bridge.  It could be a year before the road crew made it to a previously-constructed bridge, and when they did, they sometimes had to curve the approach to the bridge to connect it with the road.   Hence, curvy bridges became a part of the National Road experience in eastern Ohio.

These charming S bridges show us a unique and creative way to make connections.   And so we continue on our journey…


S Bridge on the National Road at New Concord, Ohio. Image from author's private collection





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