Where do ideas come from?
I’m often asked where my ideas for stories come from. Writers are instinctive story-hunters – there are stories everywhere – it’s about being open to what’s around you and connecting small ideas.
For example, my friend L told me a fourth-hand story about a woman who was annoyed with her husband because while he dried the dishes, he never put them away. The dry dishes would sit on the kitchen bench for his wife to put back in the drawers and cupboards. Every. Single. Day.
So one morning her husband came to her and said, ‘I don’t understand. I started to put on a business shirt for work and there’s one sleeve that wasn’t ironed. I chose another shirt, but it was ironed except for one sleeve. And then I realised all my shirts were ironed except for one sleeve. What have you done?’
Her answer? ‘Three quarters of the job.’
He always put the dishes away after that.
Now can you imagine that scene in a contemporary women’s novel?
This story happened to me a few days ago. After a disturbed night’s sleep, I drove into an underground car park. Just as I was about to park, I had to reverse to allow another car to pass me in the narrow lane. He gave me a rude gesture – I’m still not sure why – I was the one who accommodated his need. I was thinking about how unnecessarily rude he was when I scraped the car in the car park next to mine.
There were no dents, but the paint was certainly scratched off. I felt equal parts shaky and annoyed at myself. I had almost finished writing the owner of the car a note when I noticed that a lady in her sixties was about to step into the scratched car.
‘I’m so sorry, I’ve accidentally scratched your car,’ I began to apologise.
‘I’m sure it’s not that bad, let me have a look, dear,’ she told me.
When she saw the scratches, she waved her hand airily. ‘Oh, it’s nothing, don’t worry about it.’
‘But do you want my number? Just in case you change your mind?’
‘Oh my dear, forget about it,’ she said and got back in her car.
I almost fell over myself with gratitude and asked for her name.
‘Judith. Now have a good day.’
Judith, you are definitely hero material.
My final story for this week – my engagement ring broke – it has been an interesting week! My ring is 22 years old, but it broke in the same place only six months ago. The jewellers were very apologetic and will repair it. It does feel a little odd not to wear it but I’m not superstitious so I am not at all concerned that this is a bad sign for our marriage!
Now, imagine weaving all these stories together. Maybe the main character in a contemporary woman’s novel is having a problem with her marriage? Maybe she had the mini-bingle on the same day she realised her engagement ring was broken? Maybe that’s why she went home and ironed three quarters of each of her husband’s shirts? Maybe he was angry and asked her for a divorce? Maybe this all happened in the first three chapters of the book and the rest of the book is about her new life where dishes are put away correctly and the fourth finger of her left hand permanently bears an naked indent where her rings used to sit.
There are stories everywhere – writers are just good at connecting them!