Friday, January 11, 2013

Beach Inspirations: Where I Find Story Ideas

          One of the top questions I get asked by readers is, “Where do you get your inspiration for stories?”  The easier question to answer is, ”Where DON’T I find inspiration?”  Everything I see I wonder what the story behind it is.  It’s all about asking a few questions and then making up the answers.    
          Say you’re walking down the street of your small Midwestern town and notice that the large clock atop the town hall has stopped working.  So you ask yourself when and why did it stop?  A writer might (and one did) wonder if it had been struck by lightening.  Hence the time it had been struck was preserved for future generations to cogitate about.  That begs the question, if someone were to travel back in time and needed to harness a huge amount of energy, they would know what time the clock was struck and arrange to be there when lightning struck.  Hence with a few questions and a little imagination, you could have written Back to the Future.  And you would have made a little bit of money doing so, too. 
          So far none of my imaginationings have brought me fame and fortune.  But that hasn't stopped me from looking everywhere for a good story. 
          The other morning while walking along the shore I noticed footprints in the sand, leading down to the water’s edge but not back again.   There wasn't anyone swimming on that 45 degree day.  So what’s the story?  Did the person get on a sailboard or SUP (that’s beach lingo for a Stand Up Paddleboard) and float away?  Did the person walk in the water for a good distance then cross back across the sand a few miles north?  Or (and here’s the mystery writer in me) did the person meet up with someone who knocked them upside the head with a sack full of pennies then push him out to sea where he became shark hor d’oeuvres?  Okay, kind of gruesome, I know.  But as a writer we must examine all possibilities. 
          Another walk through the neighborhood had me questioning a holiday wreath still hanging on a door long after the holiday season had ended.  Had something happened to the person and they were unable to un-deck the halls?  Or was there a special memory tied to it that they want to be reminded of throughout the year?
          This week I carried my camera along with me to snap photos of things that hit me as odd and had me wondering the hows/whys/therefores of the situation.    Let’s see if they tickle your imagination, too.    
          It’s not every day you walk down the street and find a pair (not a lone one, but a pair) of zebra gloves.  The first time I saw them they were lying in a heap.  The next day someone had arranged them side by side.  Can you even spot them in this picture? 
So let the questions begin!  What kind of woman would wear zebra gloves?  How had they come to be lost?  Does she even know they are missing or was she getting in a car and heading to Florida so wouldn't notice they were missing until heading back north for a winter’s vacation?  They are still there, three weeks later. 
           One block further on my walk I saw this:

I’m not sure if it’s clear in the picture, but this is a small child’s shoe.  I found it in December when it was 30 degrees out, so why a sandal?  And why only one?  And why did it sit there on a side street for a few weeks before being moved to the sidewalk on the main drag?  Go ahead and practice framing your own story for that. 
          As a writer I don’t’ come up with ideas for stories.  I notice things that are around me and question why they are that way and the story is thus built.  It’s not as hard as it looks.

No comments: