· Listen, Read, Write, Repeat ·
If you’re a writer, or want to be a writer, do you save story-starters?
Do you file newspaper clippings, save Pinterest images, or write down bits of overheard conversations, certain you’ll use the comments or pictures in future dialogue?
Maybe your file is labeled, “Save – to Use Later.”
I’m reading the Hutchinson News, and I glance at the obituaries and see the name, “Billy Goodenough.” I don’t know him, but his name just sticks in my head.
Immediately, I know I can use his moniker in my writing. He’s not a main character in my novel, Taking Back the Bullet, but he’s morphed into a tribal police officer for the Colville Confederated Tribes Reservation. To me, Billy Goodenough just sounds like a good Indian name.
Being a retired sheriff’s deputy, I pay extra attention to news articles about crime and car accidents. So, the little clipping with bold type-face heading, catches my eye. It states: “Daytona Beach officer fired for demanding free coffee.”
What? I don’t want to believe it. Well, at least he was fired.
The story details how a coffeehouse had complained about a veteran cop visiting their business up to six times a day demanding free drinks. Workers complained he also cut in front of paying customers. Yikes! I shake my head, cut out the article, and save the clipping.
I remember one of my daily questions I ask myself in order help me frame my day: “How can I use this?” And the question is a good one for every writer to ask. In a car wreck? Write about it.
“Colorado man ticketed for riding while drunk,” was the headline above a two paragraph news item. No, he was not riding a bicycle or a lawnmower.
“A man in a cowboy hat who rode a horse through a Denver suburb has been cited for riding an animal under the influence.”
I’m laughing about this picture I’ve conjured up in my head when I re-read the last part of the sentence, “for riding an animal under the influence.” I know from the headline that the man was the one under the influence, but it also sounds like he could have been riding an intoxicated horse!
Either way, I clip the article. Save for later. In a future fictional story, this cowboy could be stopped and arrested by Tribal Police Officer Billy Goodenough.
Two clippings and a little imagination can create an intricate story that might lead anywhere. For this example, the traffic stop on the reservation could lead to an exploration of the word sovereignty when a Caucasian commits a serious crime in Indian Country but avoids punishment.
Here’s my favorite upbeat quotation selected from my file of aged clippings.
The article explains that Roy Williams, in a big NFL trade, is headed home to Texas to play for the Dallas Cowboys. The native of Odessa, Texas, tells reporters how happy he is to be back: “I’m more happy to be a Dallas Cowboy than when I got my first bike,” said the former football star from the University of Texas.
If you have a story-starter headline to share, send it to me. In a future blog I’ll post it. If you wish, I’ll include your name as a contributor.
Until next time, happy writing and reading!