This weekend I went to Six Flags Over Texas for the first time. I’ve lived in Texas for six years and still hadn’t spent a day of roller coaster fun due to a husband who really hates the aforementioned rides. Sure, he’d suffer through at my behalf, but if you’ve ever seen the post-ride photos where he’s white as a sheet, you’d feel guilty subjecting him to it.

I was lucky to take my younger cousin instead. His only interest was hitting all the main “high thrills” rides. I loved this idea. Until right before the ride kicked into high gear. This is standard for me, though. I love the idea until the roller coaster is creeping up that first hill. Click-click-click. Creeping higher and I’m looking up at the peak thinking, “Who on Earth wants to drop 25 stories at 85 miles per hour? Idiots. Oh, dear Lord, I’m an idiot.”

But, here’s the crazy part, a half-second after cresting that peak — the time when my stomach is trying to weasel up through my throat and I’m flying back toward the ground with a lap bar pressing hard into my hips — everything shifts. Now, I am no longer an idiot, but high on endorphins. Screaming. Grinning. Giddy.

At first I want to point to this and say it’s just how I react to roller coasters. But anything that starts backwards — say something at launches you backward and has you at 70 mph in 3.8 seconds? — I don’t get anxious about. It’s the thrill from the beginning. And here is the defining point: If I can’t see it coming, I can love everything about the ride.

Part of this is my nature to stress over what may come. More than that, though, I think it speaks to building anticipation. A blend of knowing it’s about to get awful and wanting to look away, whether on roller coasters or reading a novel that ties your stomach in knots, can make for the most epic experiences.

Additionally, this may explain why I prefer not to write from an outline. If I know just how bad things are going to get for my heroine, I might take it too easy on her. When it happens organically, then she’s just going to have to dig herself out and we’ll both enjoy the ride.


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