Story Ideas

It’s strange the places you discover ideas to write about.  And not just story ideas, but snippets of characters, too.

There are the usual places I’ve talked about before, like the coffee shop.  Or today, folding clothes at the laundromat and listening to the young woman who works there tell another about the stress in her life.  She talked non-stop about her troubles during the time it took me to fold three loads.  And while I eavesdropped (what else is there to do when folding?) I wished for a way to move her dialog to the page because there was so much character in her words.  And drama, and over reacting, and angst.

Then there are the unusual places.  I was reading a Freshly Pressed blog tonight, waiting for enough weariness to go to bed.  I noticed the long list of people who had commented on a woman’s blog, and then I noticed those funny little hover cards.  Gravatars?  I tried changing mine to a photo but it only changed the email one and not the blog one.  But I digress.

I hovered over one, and saw this: ‘An artist living with mental illness.’  Wow.  What a story there must be in those words.  I moved up to hover over another one.  ‘Writer and mother of an autistic child.’  Some talked about hopes and dreams, some were humorous, and some sad. All of them contained some sort of story or description, but all were written in only a few sentences.  It was like reading a synopsis of a life.

Those vignettes open up possibilities.  They brim with questions that the writer in me wants to answer.  They hint at characters to be created, at situations to be faced, at internal turmoil, at subplots and main plots.  Think about it.  The next time you need a dilemma, or help building a believable character, or even inner conflict for a character, skim those hover cards.

I suppose that kind of sounds like coldly monopolizing on someone’s troubles.  I don’t mean to sound that way.  These things I read today tugged at my heart.  I want characters who tug at a reader’s heart. I want characters who are real.  I can see how skimming hover cards will give me a touch of humor here, a conflict there, a self-description from somewhere else, resulting in a whole that hopefully resonates as believable.

What do you think?  Is it cold to pull from a stranger’s comments?  Or is it common for writers to drag stories home with them?  Try hovering over those little squares and let me know your thoughts.


3 thoughts on “Story Ideas

  1. I’ve found that almost anything can be useful in my writing. A snippet of conversation here, the anger in a rant on a blog, an interesting fact someone lists on their hovercard. I was just mentioning to a friend yesterday how we have to know how other people and other personality types talk and handle situations, to keep our characters from all sounding just like us, the writer. So, yes, I do it, too. I think it’s in our nature as writers. I don’t think it’s cold– I think it is common to drag stories and pieces of stories home with us.


  2. I sometimes wonder the same thing. I don’t think it’s cold, but I can imagine people who would think so. But ideas have to come from somewhere (or like Ré says, from everywhere,) and I don’t think we can necessarily help remembering and getting inspired by the bits and pieces we pick up. 🙂


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