Aug 17, 2012

3 Reasons to Write About Buses and Not Ghosts

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The other day, I misread a headline. The roof split above me, the earth groaned, locusts with machine guns, blah blah blah.

Now comes the hard part – my self-imposed punishment, which includes wearing red briefs and writing this blog post.

1. Buses have wheels. Why are wheels important?

For starters, buses would be highly inefficient without them.

Prior to the arrival of European explorers/invaders, the wheel was unknown in the Americas. The peoples of the New World had no access to large beasts of burden* that could effectively draw wheeled vehicles.
*There were horses in North America before humans first came to the continent, but they were hunted to extinction by early settlers from Siberia. Horses would be reintroduced by Europeans thousands of years later.

2. Lots of different people take the bus for different reasons.

I imagine people are your primary interest as a writer. Millions of stories hop onto the bus every day. A city bus is a great place for people watching, because everybody looks so pensive. They’re not putting on a show, not trying to impress anybody. The contrast between locals and tourists is also worth analyzing.

3. Buses actually exist. As for ghosts, nobody’s really sure.

You can learn a lot more about buses than you can about ghosts.

A ghost is a shadow, fictive or otherwise, of a person who used to be alive.

A bus was never alive. It is a machine. With an engine. You can learn how to build such engines, but you cannot go to school and learn how to make a ghost. Not at this point.

A Routemaster used as a café in Brick Lane, London
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Besides, you’ll be surprised at what a little research uncovers:

·         Bus is the clipped form of omnibus, a Latin word meaning “for all”
·         The first known public bus line was launched by Blaise Pascal in 1662
·         The last horse bus in London was retired in 1914, imagine that
·         The Routemaster, London’s popular double-decker (now retired) began production in 1954 and remained in service until 2005; of the 2,876 built only a thousand remain. The “Borismaster” is its rather charmless replacement
·         In 1935, Paramount Pictures had this unusual bus made for a movie.


Coda

I’m not really telling you not to write about ghosts, and I enjoy a good ghost story as much as the next person – I love supernatural horror movies – but, before you go digging in the fossil strata of the underworld, spend some time learning about the wonders that surround you. The living are responsible for a lot more strangeness than the dead. Could ghosts build these?

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