Listen and observe…
I think a lot of writers do this naturally, without even thinking about it. We see a young girl in the checkout line at Walmart paying for a cart of groceries, and we wonder, where is the adult? Why is the girl alone? Where in the world did she get that big wad of cash? (This actually happened to me, and from it, a short story was born.)
In another store, we’re in line behind two elderly women, in their mid-seventies at least. One says to the other, “I think I’ll wait awhile before I get me another husband. The last three about done me in.” Another husband? Just how many husbands has this old woman had? What happened to the last one? And the ones before him?
While walking down the street, we see an old woman in layers of tattered clothing clutching a doll to her chest and crooning a lullaby. Who is the woman? Is she homeless, as it appears? Does the doll replace a child she lost in the past? How did she lose the child?
We hear a work colleague telling another that when his great-grandfather was a teenager, he killed a man, ran hundreds of miles away, and started a new life with a new name. Who did he kill? Why did he kill? Did he kill again?
We hear on television that the moon is moving 1.6 inches away from the Earth every year. What if it sped up its departure? If so, what caused it to accelerate its retreat? How would this affect Earth? What would be its impact on human life?
Like most writers, I always have pen and paper handy—or my smartphone with its handy-dandy notes app—where I can jot down the things that make me go “hmm…I wonder…” I know better than to trust my memory; like dreams fade when waking, story ideas can slip away as well.
We watch, we overhear, and we store those nuggets away to be pulled out at a later date and inspected. We turn them over and over in our minds as the words form around them, layer upon layer, until the why, what, where, when, and how takes shape.
A story unfolds, and the magic begins.
©️2019 KT Workman