This is probably the question authors are asked the most. I can’t remember a time I didn’t have a story in my head. I wrote my first play when I was six, preceded by a prize-winning slogan and followed by an award-winning short story. It’s interesting to note, I haven’t won anything since. Contest-wise, I peaked in first grade.
And while decades elapsed before I seriously pursued publication, the stories were always there. As a child, when I played dolls or “house” with my friends, it wasn’t just the normal mommy home with a baby and daddy at work kinda game. Things happened in my make-believe worlds. Characters lived and died on my whim. We had veritable soap operas in Debbie’s basement! By the time I was a teen, I was reading constantly and often considered how I’d deviate from the author’s plot. I’d go to movies and rewrite the ending (I still do this–or guess the ending, which explains why no one wants to go to the movies with me).
Since I became an author, the creative part of my brain has grown stronger. These days, ideas zip around my skull like cars on the Autobahn. Or one of those wind booths where people try to seize dollar bills and stuff them into their pockets. Or maybe a Hydra, because once I grab an idea and work it into a story, two more take its place in my head. There seems to be an endless supply of story ideas, just in my day to day living.
I still read, and what I read (books, magazines, newspapers) can spark an idea. As a passenger (in a car, train, plane, etc.), I check out other passengers and wonder who they are, where they’re going, what they’ll do when they get there. Ditto for long lines at DMV or the local concert hall. I can make up an entire personality based on the items in someone’s shopping cart at the supermarket. Give me a few minutes of your time and I could probably write you into one of my stories. (Maybe I already have!) You wouldn’t recognize you on the page, but I do. I talk to people, and I listen. Bartenders have told their sob stories to me. I eavesdrop. (For example, in the ladies room the other day, I heard one woman say to her very pregnant friend, “The baby comes out feet first, right?” *blink-blink* There’s a scene for a story there somewhere. As soon as I can put the exploded pieces of my brain back together, I might use it.)
I have a notebook and pen at my bedside for ideas that pop up in my dreams. I do crossword puzzles and a specific word can inspire a scene. Television shows, news programs, talk radio conversations all provide fodder.
Flowers, birds, dogs at the park, the Eiffel Tower, a bank, a restaurant–any location, any prop can find a place in one of my stories.
What can I say? It’s a curse. Or a blessing. Or probably both. But it’s all I know. What do you have in your head?
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