Catching the Milk Truck

Catching the Milk Truck In To Town

A member of the audience asked a local author at a bookstore reading, ” … where did you come up with the idea for this story?”  I have been asked this from time to time by readers of my own work … where did this story idea come from?

The author went into a five minute narrative about remembering the mountains covered with forest from his early childhood as opposed to the same house littered mountainside of today. I think he made it up.

My own two ( and a half ) writing efforts started totally differently from each other.

A Confluence of Rivers came out of the twenty word phrase: At the end of the lane leading to the Wilson’s barn Wiley Jennings caught the milk truck in to town.  

       The other 137, 980 words  came out of the developing of that phrase. Why did Wiley catch that truck? Where did he go? What happened when he got there? Who cared, or didn’t care, if he went to town?  As it turns out he is not even the main character, only the number three supporting character. The story turns around his mother  and older brother. But, I didn’t know that in January 2002 when I first wrote those words. 

How does it happen that that particular phrase crossed my mind? I have no idea … I do thank the god of writing that it did.

Hampton Roads ’44 is an altogether different story. 

On a Christmas morning in the late ’90’s I was out for a run in the North End section of NewPort News, Virginia. ( Blue collar pre-WWII neighborhood.) As I got closer to the James River the houses got better and better. The houses facing the river itself were ( are ) grand.  Being the WWII history buff that I am, I knew that Hampton Roads was the third most active and  important Port of Embarkation of men and materials to the war effort during those years. The population grew by a factor of four.

There are a thousand stories here, I told myself on that Christmas morning run. It was, and is, a matter of finding the stories and peopling them with characters.  I didn’t know about Celo and Maggie and Melvin and Gladys and Wes and Curtis J then … or the Indian Chief motorcycle. I still don’t know all the things they are going to do to and with each other. I simply throw them into a situation and watch to see what happens.  Just last  night I discovered Celo and Maggie shooting craps in the upstairs room above a bar in Hampton!

Writing is an interesting process.  Give it a try sometime.


About Tom Honea

the south mississippi i grew up in did not yet have paved roads or telephones or televisions. it did have great story tellers, on front porches in the summer or around the fire place in the winter. we were poverty stricken, financially but not culturally. we didn't know it. everybody up and down the road was in the same boat. . after forty years of day jobs i am approaching my "fishing years." i plan to spend them writing. i have a finished and edited deep south novel in the "marketing" stages. currently i'm deep into a WW II home front piece set in the Hampton Roads, VA area. notes and character sketches are already underway for "From Hiroshima to Elvis" ( the ten years after the war ) on the coastal areas of South Carolina. . visit asheville ... come and see me.
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One Response to Catching the Milk Truck

  1. Lynne Bryant says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Tom. For me, sometimes, it’s those images that stick in my head that then turn into a story. When I started Catfish Alley, for whatever reason, I had an image of a young black man climbing a river bank in the dead of night to deliver a package to a wealthy white woman. I had no idea then where the story was going, but it turned into my debut novel! And to think, I almost cut that part out of the story!

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