I was speaking to a friend who said that his head is full of stories but he lacks the chops to get them down on paper, lamenting his lack of writing skill. He wondered aloud if someone would be willing to write them down for him and craft them into books, at which point his wife said, “You’re not a writer. You’re just source material.”
She was right. While I wouldn’t want to ghost write his books, I’d be happy to steal anything he might have and use it in a book.
I’m always advising my students to keep their eyes open for interesting and unique moments in life that might eventually find their way into a story, and these often come from the ideas and stories of other people. For me, it’s always the odd, quirky, or inexplicable moments that capture my eye, and I can often be seen recording these moments into my iPhone voice recorder for later transcription. These ideas might sit on the page for months or years, waiting to find a spot in a novel or even a blog post, but I treasure each one, waiting for the moment when I can bring them to life and spin them in my own special way.
Three ideas that were recently added to my idea document include:
A student told me about how her grandfather makes his wife sit in the back of the car so that the dog can sit in the front seat.
At a bridal show, I recently met a Justice of the Peace who is also a used car salesman. He was passing out his dealership business cards to prospective brides and grooms, simply adding the letters JP after his name. In lieu of a brochure or pamphlet on his services, he was tearing out a one-page story on the use of JP’s in wedding services from a bridal magazine. The article did not mention him specifically but featured a photograph of him officiating a wedding ceremony. He was scribbling his name, address and phone number to this page and describing it as his literature on the business. I could base an entire book on this guy and might do so.
A girl who vaguely knows my sister told her boss that she was dead after my sister was hit by a car crossing the highway on foot about two years ago. The accident was real, but my sister survived her 200-foot flight across the pavement (barely), but the girl in question knew that a report of the accident had been in the local paper, listing my sister in critical condition. She simply advanced that condition from critical to expired a couple days later and asked for two weeks off (paid) in order to grieve for my injured but very much alive sister. Months later, she attempted to take more paid leave, explaining that Christmas was approaching and her grief for her lost friend was returning with the holiday season and the thought of my sister’s two daughters celebrating without a mother. Suspicious, the girl’s place of business tracked down my sister, called her, and confirmed that she was still alive, thus foiling the girl’s plan for a paid Christmas vacation and resulting in her termination.
All three of these stories will likely find their way into a novel someday.