Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dude! Details from a skate park!

Last week I took our three sons to the skate park. It was a gorgeous So Cal day, and while the boys did their thing on the ramps and half-pipes, I sat with my trusty spiral notebook and jotted down setting details. If you write for middle graders or young adults, these scene details may come in handy. Here are some of my observations:

The Setting
  • Standard skate park environment--cement bowl, half-pipe, and ramps of various pitches. Metal staircase poles. A brown wooden bridge with blue and green flags flying at the corners.
  • Chunks of cement chipped out of the bowl's edges.
  • Palm trees planted near the bridge, fronds swaying in the gentle breeze.
  • 20' x 20' shades placed intermittently along the surrounding sidewalk.
  • Traffic noise from the nearby road--trucks and small cars.
The Toys
  • Wooden skateboards, BMX-style bikes, and in-line skates.
  • Most kids wore helmets. Adults did not. Some kids wore their helmets unbuckled, the straps hanging free.
The People
  • Mostly kids, from around six years old to older teens.
  • Two adults on skateboards--one with a shaved head, wearing denim shorts and a white T; the other had thinning longer hair, and he wore an unbuttoned shirt, corduroy pants, and mirrored sunglasses.
  • Most kids rode with one eye on their own path, and another eye on what the other kids were doing (tricks, etc.)
  • Some kids sat over the edge of the bowl, legs dangling, baseball caps on backwards, iPod buds in their ears.
  • Two teen girls were there, but not on a "ride." They ran up and down the half-pipe.
  • One older teen had a tattooed "ring" on his ring finger, about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Plenty of F-bombs dropped by some teens--young and old.
  • Standard uniform was skinny jeans and graphic T's.
  • Cringe-worthy crashes (including my sons).
  • Sounds of crashes differed, based on the toy. Scooters--silent glide and then metal scraping. BMX bikes--squealing tires, then rubber thumping, and then metal scraping. Skateboards--a whoosh, then wood scraping, and then a thunk as it flipped.
Have you ever visited a skate park? If so, did these scene details sound familiar? And do you ever jot down scene details when you're out and about?


  1. No but I can imagine the crashes. And the language.

  2. I have a skate park scene in one of my books...I went from memory rather than notes, but I hope I still caught the atmospere of it. Sometime just the right two or three details can do that.

  3. Nope. Like Alex, I can hear the crashes though!

  4. We have a skate park in our big community park by the high school. It's a whole other world! You described it perfectly - all skate parks must be the same.

    I do jot down details when I'm out and about. I always keep a notebook in my purse.

  5. Thanks for this tip, Julie. I've never visited a skate park, but I like the idea of jotting down scenery just for the practice. My husband suggested this once when an agent told me I needed to improve on my imagery. He said, "Just practice. Go to the living and write a scene that describes it." I didn't do it, however. But since the idea is now coming from a talented author, I think I will. :)

  6. What a great idea! Are you sure you don't work for the Bookshelf Muse? LOL! I know that skate park I think. We attended a Bday party there.

  7. This reminds me of the neighboring town to where I grew up. I never went to the skate park there, but I passed one all the time, and this is pretty much exactly what it looked like.


    <3 Gina Blechman

  8. Never been to one, but I love your notes! I need to start doing more note-taking while out and about.

  9. Yes, I have and, a a mother, I cringe because it just seems so dangerous. I've seen kids lose their front teeth and break their arms. My own little neighbor boy got a concussion, and he was wearing a helmet! Still, it would be great place to pick up on details, especially if you write YA. I don't specifically take a notepad and jot things down when I'm out, but I do take notice of people and my surroundings.

  10. I dropped my son off at the skate park a couple of times and he was offered drugs, harrassed, and threatened. He never wanted to go back.

  11. The chunks of cement missing - great detail. Next time I have to take my kids to some activity (when I would rather be writing!) I will bring a long a notebook too.

  12. Never been, but I know a lot of kids in my class practically live there. Maybe I'll go with you next time to soak up the ambiance.

  13. I have never visited a skate park...and had to think about the "F-bomb" lol. But I catch on. This is a great tool to do. I think I'm going to start taking notes while enroute across the ocean in the middle of the night. I wonder what I will notice that I never had before. Thanks for a great idea!

  14. Oooh, fun. I like this because it was covert research LOL:) great details Julie!

  15. Never been to a skate park before. Great notes.

  16. Terrific details! I especially like the observation about the adult riders.

    I haven't done too many "field notes" lately but your post has definitely jumpstarted the urge.

  17. Hmm, interesting. I haven't ever been to a skate park. My boys are 5 and 8 and not yet interested. And we live in the Northeast, so we have a shorter period for outdoor activities. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Great observations. We have one at the bottom of our hill ... and then there are some crazy kids who go up the hill beyond our house and skateboard all the way down. So dangerous because there are cliffs and things. And they don't wear helmets. Ugh.

  19. You're the only mother I've heard of who mentions in a neutral way how her sons did their thing on the ramps and half-pipes. I guess it's a matter of getting used to it.
    Recording observations is great practice. When it comes to writing a scene, it might be as Jennifer said -- have two or three bell-ringing details.

  20. Thanks for the tip, Julie. I've observed plenty of times, and then written from memory or just jotted down notes on scenery. I'd kind of forgotten about the other senses, though. Noise in particular is something that is so powerful in stories, yet I always forget to take notes on this. It was a timely reminder - something I need to do more of!