Stories Everywhere

Story ideas are everywhere. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you his idea service.

Today, as I was leaving the grocery store, I pulled up next to a nice black car at the stoplight. The driver was a young blonde woman, her hair pulled back in a professional-style ponytail. It was about 6:00 PM, and she looked as if she had just gotten off work. She was very pretty, and her face was scrunched in worry. That, in itself, is enough to spark a story. What would make a young, successful businesswoman worry so? What is happening in her life?

As she waited for the light, she got a small box out of one of the grocery bags and opened it. She pulled a sheet of paper out of the box and unfolded it. The sheet had a pink border; it was instructions for a home pregnancy test. She was still waiting at the stoplight when I drove into the intersection.

You can’t tell me there’s not a story there. I guarantee it’s a very important story for the young lady. I couldn’t see if she had a ring on her left hand; depending on whether she did or didn’t, the story could go in vastly different directions.

On another occasion, I was walking with my wife in downtown Denver one frigid night. We were on our way to an Eric Johnson concert at the Ogden Theatre. As we walked, a couple about a block in front of us stopped short, dropped their bags, and faced each other, yelling. We slowed, not sure what was going to happen or if we would have room to get by. They sparred verbally, and then the man suddenly picked up his shopping bag, turned, and walked briskly up the street, away from us. The woman stood still. She called after him a couple of times, but he didn’t turn around or stop. She started crying. Gathering her things, she began to shuffle up the street in the direction he had gone, still sobbing in the cold air.

I have no idea what they were arguing about, or whether it was right for him to strand her on Colfax Avenue on a winter night. Perhaps he had some justification, or perhaps he was just a jerk. But the scene could translate almost directly into a story or even a movie script. I’ve often thought it would be a good exercise to write that scene from different perspectives: one that paints the man’s actions in a positive light, one that paints his actions in a negative light, and one that explains what’s happened in a way that neither person looks like the villain.

Observation is really all it takes to come up with the spark for a story. The writer doesn’t have to record the events perfectly for an idea to start burning; in fact, it might keep the idea from growing if the writer sticks too closely to the details. Stories that are based in reality may sometimes benefit from tension-inducing details that were not in the inspirational scene.

Tonight, I played Morrowind for the first time in weeks. I didn’t get very far; in fact, I stopped playing it in favor of reading Word Work. I should be able to finish the book at lunch tomorrow.

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Morning Morrowind

I felt better today, and attended work as usual. I’m upset with myself for missing work over a silly sinus problem, because I also missed a meeting that I was actually looking forward to attending. This morning, I got up at 5:30 AM and rode the exercise bike for a while, then discovered that I had plenty of time to do something else before I went to work.

So I played Morrowind. I know, I know, I’m supposed to write, not play games during this morning time. That was the agreement I made with myself. Hey, at least I exercised. That’s a start, and hopefully I will be able to get into that full bore when I’m not so worn out from playing “This Ole House” every night.

I should at least be able to get the hall ceiling painted tonight, and my wife can get some particularly needful parts of the bedroom primed.

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Independence Day

I had today off from work, my son had spent the night at a friend’s house, and my wife had to work the morning shift. I had the perfect opportunity for uninterrupted writing. So I played Morrowind most of the morning, then played guitar in the afternoon. Well, it’s not writing, but I do need to work on the songs for Better Than Nothing in case they invite me to join the group. Even the Morrowind stuff was pretty creative; I’m really getting into the meat of the main quest now, and some of the tasks on that quest are getting tougher, so accomplishing them requires some creativity.

In the evening, we went to CU’s Folsom Field for their annual concert and fireworks display. Because of the Colorado wildfire situation and the drought conditions, the City of Boulder made the responsible decision to cancel the fireworks display this year, and the promoters chose to present a laser light show instead. Usually the event features a high-profile local band, Chris Daniels and the Kings, but this year they had the Colorado Music Festival orchestra. The orchestra played well, but making the sound from a small orchestra fill a college football stadium is a challenge, and the amplified sound of the orchestra was unavoidably tinny. The laser show was good, though short. Considering the fact that they only had a couple of weeks to put the whole thing together after the fireworks ban, I’d say they did a very good job.

If they ever do this again, though, I won’t sit in the same spot. We were directly below the stadium scoreboard in the upper bleachers. This is the ideal place to view a fireworks display, because you don’t have to crane your neck as much. However, with lasers shooting over the crowd from the other end of the stadium, and with us directly across from the emanation point, we got quite a bit of laser amplification when the lines crossed. The lasers weren’t dangerous to our eyes, but the constant flashing made more than a few guests in our area leave shortly after the beginning of the show.

When we got home, I finished reading Zen Guitar. I hope to post a review of that on this site tomorrow and also send a review of last week’s Dan Fogelberg concert to the Living Legacy website.

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Gaming

I’m a couple of days behind in updating this page, and I don’t remember doing anything creative other than playing Morrowind and Magic: The Gathering on Saturday. I did enjoy seeing my old friends and playing Magic with them.

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Morrowind Creativity

The most creative thing I did today involved playing Morrowind. My character contracted a disease in a remote area after fighting several undead creatures which had drained his strength and endurance. The disease (called “the Blight”) further drained him until he had no strength or endurance left at all. (In this game, Strength and Endurance are physical attributes of the character. Both attributes had values of zero.)

The challenge before me was to get my character back up to full strength and get the disease cured, but since his strength was sapped, he couldn’t carry anything with him. Part of his quest involved returning a couple of items to a guild master in another town, so he had to be able to carry things to complete the quest. However, in order for him to be able to move at all, he had to take off all the armor and possessions that he carried, leaving him defenseless against creatures in the wilderness. Fortunately, in Morrowind, gold evidently weighs nothing, so he was at least able to carry money.

After stripping to his loin cloth and picking up his gold, he ran through the wilderness to the nearest town. In several places along the way, he encountered creatures that tried to attack him, but he was able to get by the creatures without being injured too much more. When he arrived at the town, he spoke with several locals who were a bit offended by his lack of dress. Through those conversations, he learned that there was no healer in town and no place to purchase healing potions. Fortunately, the town was coastal, so he was able to book passage on a ship to another, larger town.

In the larger town, he found a healer and purchased potions to cure the Blight, restore his strength and restore his endurance. With the few gold coins he had left, he bought a knife and some clothes, took the ship back to the small coastal town, and ran back through the wilderness to gather his things. He then ran back to the small town, took the ship back to the larger town, and was able to use other transport to get back to the guild master and complete his quest. That was the closest this character has come to death and still avoided it.

Of course, I could have just loaded a previously saved game and completed the quest again, but that wouldn’t have been creative, now would it?

(I also went to see my friend John play with his band, Better Than Nothing, and that was fun. I couldn’t stay late enough to see the whole show, unfortunately.)

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