The Kingdom’s Full of Gold!
Years ago, I used to write a daily private blog about everyday incidents that happened to me. When I return to the entries now, I’m amazed at the bounty to plunder for writing ideas. Without realizing it at the time, this was a great way to capture situations that later could be turned into scenes, dialogue and character development.
Watching real life scenes play out as we go about our daily business offers a minefield of ideas.
In today’s world, we have ample opportunity to write up what we see and experience. Grab a shovel! Here are three ways to mine for solid gold:
1. Mining for Dialogue
Eavesdropping prospects abound in the world.
“Eavesdropping?” you say. “But it’s rude, so wrong, to listen in on other people’s conversations.”
My philosophy is that it’s all fair game. People make it easy for us, what with their loud phone conversations in the middle of Wal-Mart or Kroger. All we have to do is pick out the threads of conversation.
“Aunt Fern’s hernia operation was a success,” or “Yeah, I’m telling you, he’s cheating with his wife’s best friend,” might arrest your attention when you’re benignly searching for shampoo.
Write downs those lines before you forget them, or write up it up in a scene as I did in the final example.
2. Mining for Emotions
Daily situations provide a range of emotions from a hilarious encounter to a somber incident; from mild irritation to outright rage; or from a friendly engagement to a dangerous one. When we write these down, we have an opportunity to use them later in our writing and in the lives of our characters. We can extrapolate the emotions we feel to our characters.
Who hasn’t experienced the thoughtless behavior of a co-worker/friend/store clerk who answers her cellphone in the middle of a conversation? This experience, unfortunately, is not uncommon these days.
During a recent conversation, a colleague of mine answered a cellphone call, without a word to me, and began to talk to the caller, and after hanging up, wanted to resume our conversation, again without a word about the interruption.
My annoyance made me think about how to use this emotion with characterization. A mother might feel irritation for her daughter who constantly answers her cellphone, regardless of what else might be happening. This creates conflict, either internally or externally, for the mother who is confounded by her daughter’s behavior.
You can tap into your own emotions – joy, aggravation, gratitude, amusement or whatever it might be, to provide source material for your character, or in the case of a memoir, for the actual situation.
3. Mining for scenes
Life events can also offer us situations to set up a scene for our characters. The funny situation below is one that I chronicled in my private blog. If I hadn’t written it down, I probably would have forgotten about the specific details. This scene could be used for a character who is dealing with growing older; the character could view it humorously or with consternation.
A few years ago, I was at a used book store, looking through a book bin that was located outside the store. I was there on a mission to find a particular book, but I decided to check out the books carelessly dumped into the bin.
Several people swarmed around the large container, so I eased in between two men and thumbed through some of the surface books.
The man standing to the right of me was older, probably nearing 70. He seemed kind of sweet.
"You might want this one," he said, pushing a book toward me.
I looked at the cover to discover the title, "How to Get Pregnant Using Modern Technology."
I immediately said, "No I don't think so."
Finally, he took a moment to look me in the face, and said, "No I don't think you want that one."
Ah, hmmm, hmmm?
Then he uncovered a book on quilting and opened up the pages to show me the beautiful quilts and then, after offering it to me, he turned to woman standing on his other side. "You might want this book."
Was the old fart trying to pick up women? I moved on inside, and the situation didn't really hit me until I got inside. My next thought was that I have to write down the name of that book.
Ideas for stories, dialogue and scenes are all around us. We just have to be attuned to gifts from the universe. Maybe I should start keeping a daily blog again!
What’s happened to you lately that might convert into a story ingredient? I love to hear about it in the comments below.
Millard is a writing coach and project development editor. If you’d like to see how she can help you, email her at bonny dot millard AT gmail dot com and ask for a complimentary Project Discovery Call to learn more.