What sparks a good story?

I was asked this question the other day by a friend, someone who was genuinely curious as to the nature of this thing I do.

It’s a great question, because its obvious and also not obvious.

Obvious because there are stories happening around us all the time. Each moment that passes is filled with nuance and detail that spins a tale that could alter the lives of those it affects, or brings into effect events or circumstance that will affect someone later on down time’s long and winding path.

But most of us are so caught up in the minute to minute minutia of our lives that we miss these moments, and they pass by and disappear without notice… flying away and scattering like birds against a sunset sky.sunset-birds

Of course I’m probably just talking bullshit here. There’s a lot of moments that are just dull and mundane… then again, maybe we are too close to them to see the whole picture. If you people watch you’ll see a thousand stories going on all around you. Some of those stories are simple sentences, no more than a paragraph long. Others you can see taking up pages, a lifetime expressed by one person simply looking at the items on a store shelf, their eyes lingering on each item as if it were as meaningful as the last look from a lover who has just left you.

Where do ideas come from for me?

I generally get an idea from a story from either a factoid or news blurb that seems unusual or just a bit bizarre. Or sometimes a scene will pop into my mind because I’m listening to a particular piece of music. But I think I’m just wired to always be thinking in terms of creative expression – stories are my escape and my entertainment, and so I feel the need to share them.

As an illustration – my recently published novelette “Buddy Holly and the Cold, Cold Ground” was sparked by reading or actually re-reading about the death of Buddy Holly. What struck me about it was the time between the plane crash and when the wreckage and bodies were found. I thought to myself, were any of them alive after the crash? Did it take long for them to die or was it instantaneous? And then I just started thinking, other tragic events like that they leave behind things – and then naturally that led to considering the nature of what happens to those things that get left behind and how poisonous they can get if they aren’t acknowledge or given any attention.

And to me, that’s what ghosts really are – those things we don’t pay attention to and so ‘haunt’ us until we deal with them. I was going to talk about another little news item about a certain day in New York City that happened not too long ago (in 2012 as a matter of fact) but I’m still writing that story and so, don’t want to give anything away 🙂

I’m not really sure I answered the question posed in the title of this post – but ideas are there, you just have to catch them out of the corner of your eye.

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