Geronimo Stilton is a character in my son’s favorite chapter book series. Stilton is a mouse, and the editor of The Rodent’s Gazette, the largest newspaper in New Mouse City. He’s also a fussy, wimpy, ’fraidy mouse. Besides being the name of a famous Apache warrior, “Geronimo” is what people sometimes yell when they jump bravely into the unknown. (If you are curious, this started in 1939 when an Army paratrooper yelled it as he was parachuting out of a plane.)
Anyway, Stilton is always getting dragged off on crazy adventures—finding lost treasure, exploring mummy tombs and haunted castles, entering into a secret quest inspired by a map hidden in an art museum—you get the idea. He’s always reluctant, but thanks to his bold sister Thea, his ever-hungry cousin Trap, and his adoring nephew Benjamin, things always turn out just fine.
Many of the books in the Geronimo Stilton series are written around vacations, explorations, quests, and adventures. In the season of summer reading, many of you are probably cracking open these types of books yourselves, as you pack up and head off to the beach, the mountains, a far-away city, a distant country, or wherever you’re headed.
The thing is, opposite of sticking around (or writing about) home, where “nothing ever happens,” going somewhere far away means that we are on guard, off kilter, and out of our element—all of those clichés that suggest newness, or a bit of mystery, or perhaps even a little danger. Or a lot of danger. Or how about wacky misadventure? Most of us have had at least one visit to our own personal Wally World. Beautiful, calm, peaceful vacations are only written about in travel brochures. Just as Geronimo Stilton never writes about the five days he spent sitting calmly reading Thoreau on the dock at the lake, it’s the imperfect vacations and travels that are often memorable—and most often written about.
Today’s Writing Exercise
We all dream of the idyllic vacation, and hopefully, you are having one right now. But what about the simply awful one? Or the perfectly magical one, that didn’t turn out like you wanted but was still amazing for all its flaws? Or the tragic one? Or the scary one? Or the heartbreaking one? Who is the handsome, mysterious stranger in the hotel lobby? What’s the haunting thing that washed up on the beach? What did you see in the boarded-up attic window of the villa? What’s the name of the girl who just sent you a drink at the bar? Use a vacation, past or present, as the inspiration for a rough sketch of a vacation story. Perhaps you will find a plot line that leaves you on guard, off kilter, and out of your element—just enough to expand that plot line into a real book!