Answer: I have a fun, but kind of obnoxious habit of making up stories about everything I see or hear, from quick images to family tales or newspaper stories.
Maybe it’s like the old saying of Paul Harvey… and now for the rest of the story.
Once I read a story about how a rich and talented and handsome actor went into drug rehab and I thought, “why would someone with everything be so unhappy to take drugs?” From that I wrote a novel about an attorney who had everything but nothing of substance.
I read the newspaper for stories of the unusual, such as one about a town populated mostly by men (it had a men’s prison,) but I thought, that would be a funny story about a modern town of men and how they feel about having no women around and what they do about it.
Sometimes, it’s a mere image that sets me off. My writing friends and I toured a cemetery of a ghost town and I saw a tree growing out an old grave, so I wrote a poem about a man so mean that when a tree grew out of his grave, it had very shallow roots.
The thing for me is not only reading the news stories or seeing an image, but asking the question, “What if…”
What if I was in that situation?
What if this happened?
What if that happened?
What if it was a town of women instead of men?
Sometimes, the stories get to paper and sometimes, they remain in my head, just waiting for the right time.
So open your eyes for the unusual, or the usual that could turn unusual in your imagination. Learn to observe everything and learn to see when you look. And don’t forget to ask, “What if….”