As I’ve said before, ideas are in the air. But how do you snatch them up and make them your own?
I believe writers are peculiar people. We tuck bits of memories in our brains and hearts only to pull them out years later and incorporate them into stories.
I visited a girlfriend one day, and she told me about an experience she’d had the week before. Her in-laws were coming to visit, so she made sure her house was sparkling clean. When they were due to arrive, she gave her home a cursory glance, sure that her house was spotless.
And then she saw it. A blob of cream cheese was securely nestled into the fibers of her living room carpet. She ran for the kitchen, grabbed a butter knife and was on her knees scraping cheese out of her carpet when the doorbell ran.
When she told me her story, I saw her irritation and disappointment. It seems that no matter how hard you try to do your best sometimes, there will still be a proverbial blob of cream cheese ruining your perfection.
That story was related to me over 20 years ago, and I never forgot my friend’s frustration. That utter desperation of wanting to be on top of her life and failing despite her best efforts was the germ of an idea, the emotion of it actually, that I used in my first published novel.
All it takes is for an incident, emotion, or an idea to strike a writer’s fancy and then for the writer to ask that greatest of jumping off questions, “what if?”
So the next time something catches your imagination, instead of following the thought to a logical conclusion, ask yourself, “what if?”
That just might be the beginning of an interesting story.