Saturday, November 10, 2012

Inspiration can come from anywhere or... How I got scolded at The Home Depot

Inspiration for writing can come from anywhere, and I am always on the lookout for story ideas and characters. Sometimes a particular person, scenario, or conversation will catch my attention, and I will observe or listen for details that might inspire some future storyline, dialogue, or character. 

Some of my previous characters have been based on: a woman I saw at a local parade one day, a basketball player I heard speak once, an eccentric neighbor who used to live down the street from me, an overly-opinionated woman I used to know, a teenager who was an intern at a non-profit where I used to work.

Inspiration is all around us, and I'm very vigilant about those around me--almost too vigilant sometimes. So, I look around; I notice people around me. As Ferris Bueller would say:  "If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." You could miss that spark of inspiration that might be the basis of the next  storyline, the next book.

Finding a balance is important though. You don't want to be found staring at someone as you try to figure out their deal or find how you might use them or their circumstance in your next book.

In September 2008, the approaching hurricane Ike caused residents of Corpus Christi to flood hardware stores such as The Home Depot in search of supplies. We were fortunate; we had wooden boards to cover our window. We were, however, in need of thick wood screws, so we ventured out to The Home Depot. 

There was a huge line of 20-30 people waiting for plywood to board up their windows. Many of them were in line for over 2 hours and could likely wait 2 more hours for the plywood to be delivered. There were trucks coming from other places (San Antonio, I assumed) to stock the stores in Corpus Christi.

As I was browsing for screws, I couldn't take my eyes off the long line of those waiting for plywood.  The line wrapped around the perimeter of the store. People were standing in line in desperate hope that enough plywood would come in time for them to board up their houses and evacuate. Thoughts ran through my mind--how might they be feeling? What are their circumstances? What's going to happen? I think that authors evaluate their surroundings and the people around them with a curiosity that is always on and never gets shut off. At least it is that way with me. 

And that is when.... I got scolded at The Home Depot. 

A man, standing in line, met my staring eyes and said: "What--do you think we're monkeys at the zoo?" I quickly tore my eyes away from the line, grabbed my screws, and shamefully headed for the long lines in the front. He was right. I was being rude, watching them in their time of discomfort. So, there is a fine line between watching the world around your for inspiration and intruding on the privacy of others. I am in constant search of that fine line, trying to make sure I don't cross it.

My curiosity of the world around me is always on. I am always thinking, thinking, thinking. I'm not a very talkative person. Some people might find me quiet, but that is because I'd rather be thinking than talking. I wake up in the morning with characters, storylines running though my head, and I go to sleep with those same thoughts running rampant through my brain. I know it might seem strange, but that is who I am.

So, if you find that you are in same position as I am, watching the world around you for character ideas and storylines, just make sure you find the right balance between "looking around once in a while" and getting scolded at The Home Depot. 


Diane v said...

Great post! The line, I'd rather be thinking than talking reminds me of Abby;). So excited to read your upcoming book!

Marcia Mickelson said...

Thanks, Diane. Abby is so great.

Amanda said...

I love people watching. I need to do that more often.

Marcia Mickelson said...

Amanda, I need to do it less often, I think. Ha, ha.