Name My Book: Stories from the Roller Coaster
Today is Day 52 (of 123) into my current writing project. A brief recap:
I wrote my last book in about eight months. With everything I learned in that process, I felt like I could write this one in half the time. While writing a series of posts intended to help other busy writers tell their stories, I decided to take the plunge and write this book according to the formula I was suggesting to others.
All of my writing is happening outside of the normal 8-to-5 workday. I am journaling daily during the process in preparation to develop a system to spur other potential values storying-type writers to get their stories out to world…busy schedules and all. Read more about the initial concept here.
Stories from the Roller Coaster?
Okay, values storying coumminity, let’s name a book…and more. Beginning with the concept of moments frozen in time that are fairly universal–the unexpected phone call that changes everything, the birth of a dream, death of a dream, and so forth–I landed on the analogy of a roller coaster to write stories of faith. These are my own faith stories, but many of them will transcend my experience and cause you to connect with pivotal moments in your faith journey, wherever you happen to be on that journey.
Here’s how each chapter of the book currently lays out:
- A snippet of an experience I had on a roller coaster ride (not being a particular fan of thrill rides).
- A moment frozen in time from my life, followed by in-depth faith stories.
- An encouraging Scripture of faith to close each chapter.
The working title of the book is Stories from the Roller Coaster. In the survey below, you’ll get to let me know how that resonates with you and suggest a subtitle. First, though, I want to give you the rough draft of the chapter breakdowns along with the roller coaster snippets. I hope you enjoy this first look at the new project. I look forward to your feedback!
Roller Coaster Chapter Snippets
Chapter 1: Stepping on the Ride
The back of the line was safe, an easy place to have the courage that was not necessary just yet. I had only ridden two roller coasters in my life. One of those was a kiddie ride, so it didn’t really count. As the line for the Rockin’ Roller Coaster moved forward, the activity of the butterflies in my stomach increased. Still, the line was a place for bravado because I hadn’t actually committed to the ride yet. I could still back out if I wanted.
I really didn’t want to ride the roller coaster, but I didn’t want to not ride it, either. I mean, this was Disney World. You don’t go to Disney World to watch people ride rides. You go there to actually experience the park for yourself. And we weren’t the family that would be back again next year. This was a first trip for all of my family, one that my mother-in-law had wanted to take us on for years. My youngest son was five that year, old enough to enjoy the park.
My dilemma between fear and bravery–brought closer every time another group clambered aboard the ride–was about to come to a head. The next ride would be ours. I knew that we would be slingshot like a rocket into the tunnel through the nearest wall. Past that, well, I didn’t know. The ride was completely enclosed, so I didn’t know how high we would climb or how sharply we would turn or whether or not we would go upside down. I think my not knowing was the main reason that when the roller coaster came to a stop for the group in front of us, I stepped through the gate and took my seat.
If I had seen the peaks and valleys, the twists and turns, and the double loops of the Rockin’ Roller Coaster, I might have chickened out and missed the thrilling ride that it was. I might not have gotten on some of the other rides in the other Disney parks that week. But, instead, I trusted that millions who had enjoyed the ride before me weren’t wrong about it. I would never have known if I had not first stepped through the gate and onto the ride.
Chapter 2: Securely Fastened In
As I sat down in the seat of the Rockin’ Roller Coaster, the bravado I had felt in the line had all but slipped away. Control of the situation had shifted. Though I still left open the possibility that the ride would be as adventurous as advertised, the doubts over what I had agreed to were quite pronounced.
A defining moment came when the ride attendant came to my wife’s and my individual car and pulled the safety bar down. Clang! It fastened securely into place. Thick, padded, and resting about chest level in front of me, the safety bar offered a sense of security…and finality. As the attendant stepped away from the last car, my ability to exit the ride walked away with her. I was locked in.
Chapter 3: Movement
The lights dimmed and the high-voltage sound of Aerosmith cranked up over the Rockin’ Roller Coaster speakers. This was really happening. No turning back now. The chant began, first over the loudspeakers, then joined by the participants of the ride: “10-9-8-7-6…!”
Different roller coasters start in different ways. Some begin with a clackety-clack climb to the top of the first hill, giving riders time to adjust to movement and building anticipation. I knew this ride would be different. Like so many of the newer roller coasters, this one would catapult us immediately into…whatever was inside that tunnel through the wall directly in front of us. Zero to 60 in, what, a second or two? Any mental adjustments that nervous riders needed to be make had to be made quickly.
Chapter 4: Speed
The roller coaster shot through the tunnel in front of us in no time flat. I’ve never encountered that type of back-jarring speed before…at least not in an open-air vehicle. I had seen groups in front of us go through everything we had: slowly moving forward in line, moving through the gate to an open car, settling in and being securely fastened in by a park attendant. Just like the ones before us, we were gone in a flash.
Those waiting in line behind us could only hear us for a brief moment as we confronted…whatever was behind that wall. They could have to wait to experience the ride for themselves. Meanwhile, we were off in a flash on the ride of a lifetime.
Chapter 5: Twists and Turns
Almost immediately after zipping through the original tunnel, we took a sharp, unexpected turn. The longer the ride continued, the more the sudden twists and turns became almost predictable. Every time the ride allowed us to become somewhat relaxed, a jerk to the left or dip back to the right would affirm our lack of control and remind us that we were on a roller coaster.
Chapter 6: Darkness
The Rockin’ Roller Coaster—in addition to the spine-jarring catapult toward sudden twists and turns, set to the pulsating beat of Aerosmith’s greatest hits—takes place in what, at first, seems to be utter darkness. This was probably what helped me cross the line to ride it in the first place; I couldn’t see what was really going to take place later, just the first second or two of the ride.
My eyes slowly began to adjust to the glint of light offered by a few neon signs placed along the tracks. I could look ahead and see a small dip, an incline just ahead, a sharp turn to the right. I took a small amount of comfort just seeing a little distance ahead, even though by the time my brain registered what would be the next movement, we were already in the middle of that movement.
Chapter 7: Upside Down
I had always feared roller coasters that went upside down. Neither of my previous two experiences involved this action. I likely would not have gotten on the Rockin’ Roller Coaster if I had known that it went upside down. However, I was locked in now with no choice to go back. If it went upside down, well, I supposed I would go upside down with everybody else.
I didn’t even fully recognize it when it happened. With one motion coming so quickly after another, I barely had time to think, “Hey, did we just…” before the next action was upon us. Later, I asked my wife if we had gone upside down. She confirmed that, indeed, we had taken two full loops at one point and a sort of sideways loop later in the ride.
I rode the Rockin’ Roller Coaster a couple more times that day at the MGM park at Disney World. I became more familiar with the sensation of turning upside down, and more of the fear associated with turning upside down diminished with each experience.
Chapter 8: White Knuckles
The safety bar in front of me was my friend the first time I rode the Rockin’ Roller Coaster. My knuckles, I’m sure, turned white with my death grip on the bar. While others were screaming shouts of joy, I was holding on for dear life. Yet we were all experiencing the same ride.
As I took more turns on this ride throughout the day, my experience began to turn from survival mode to pleasure and exhilaration. The ride itself never changed, but my increasing familiarity with it changed my response to its twists, turns, dips, and drops.
Chapter 9: Hands in the Air
I slowly began to loosen my grip on the security bar in front of me. Perhaps I realized that it was not my death grip on the bar that was holding me safely in the ride but its grip on me.
I was finally able to do what you see all the people in the roller coaster promotional photos doing: I threw my hands in the air. Tentative at first and with more abandon later, I was now actually enjoying the ride. Fun had replaced fear…well, mostly.
Chapter 10: Edge of the Big Drop
Even with my limited roller coaster experience, I have learned the sensation of the defining moment of the ride: the edge of the big drop. Everything seems to freeze suddenly as you realize—even in the dark—that something big is about to happen. You can almost feel the breath being sucked out of you in anticipation of…well, your breath being sucked out of you during a precipitous fall.
The moment at the edge of the drop draws a comparison between courage and bravado. You are about to go vertical, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. All that remains is how you respond to it.
Chapter 11: Freefalling
The dramatic moment at the edge of the drop turned quickly to screams as the roller coaster thundered down the steepest descent of the ride. What felt like freefalling, especially in the pit of my stomach, turned to traction just about as quickly.
For some, the sensation of freefalling was absolute panic. For others, momentary alarm gave way quickly to a rush of excitement. Still others experienced sheer jubilation throughout the plunge. A select few seemed strangely disinterested.
The photos did not lie. Seconds after the plunge, we would exit the ride to discover photos of the Rockin’ Roller Coaster’s definitive moment. (These were compliments of the folks at Disney, who were evidently trying to supplement their meager admission prices with photo opportunities at every turn.) I could have mustered bravado in my words, but the photo squarely placed me in the “momentary alarm” category…at least, the first time.
Chapter 12: Please Exit the Ride
And just like that, the ride was over.
My family had waited in line, anticipating our turn to ride the Rockin’ Roller Coaster. We had watched others slingshot out of sight, only to return a few minutes later, laughing and full of joy. I had dealt with my own anxiety about the unknown and the potential fear that getting on this ride would entail. I had felt the ride’s initial thrust, faster than I really felt comfortable going. I had adjusted to all the twists and turns and upside down loops in near darkness. I had felt the dramatic pause before everything seemed to give way beneath me and then the rush of adrenaline as we nosedived. Now, just like so many others before me, I was instructed to please exit the ride.
And you know what? I’m glad I boarded the ride in the first place. I would do it again.
So…does that analogy resonate with your “ride of faith” experience? What images came to your mind as you read?
Would you please consider the questions in the following survey and let me know what you think? With your input, this will be a much greater project than I would create by myself. Many, many thanks.
Thanks for reading.For the next generation, Al Ainsworth www.alainsworth.com (the new home of the Family Story Legacy blog beginning September 2) (c) 2014 Al Ainsworth