Today we’ll again discuss ideas: Where they come from and how do we apply them.
The answer to “Where do they come from?” is everywhere. Everything in life is a trigger. An overheard conversation as you pass someone in the mall for instance can trigger an idea. Heck, nowadays, you can overhear conversations of cell phone conversations. It seems no one has any shame or sense of propriety when it comes to talking on the phone. It used to be phone conversations were considered a private thing. That’s why phone booths used to be sealed, so you could talk without some gutter bum listening in.
Now, people hold whole conversations, even arguments, right there for the entire world to hear.
Sometimes these unintentionally overheard arguments can be fodder for a great idea. Any writer worth his salt will carry a notebook with them everywhere just in case one of these conversations strikes his imagination’s fancy. I know my own memory isn’t what it once was, and what it once was wasn’t all that great to begin with, so I now carry a notebook because these ideas often don’t stick around until I get home to the put them down.
In my case, often nothing triggers the idea. It just pops into my head without any noticeable trigger being present. I think of these as unconscious triggers. I don’t notice them, but my mind does, and it creates a scene from it.
These scenes often seem as if I had just walked into the middle of a movie. It starts in the middle of a story and ends before anything is resolved. I have always thought of these as “slice of life” stories because it seems like a slice out of um, well, life. I’m quite certain however, that my definition of slice of life is quite different from the actual literary definition of slice of life.
Here is one of those scenes:
Argument # ?
The rain pounded upon the sheet metal in a non-stop staccato as the car drove along the wet, dark roads. Occasionally the car would plow through a deep puddle caused by a backed-up sewer, creating a small tsunami-like curtain of water. The headlights razed the darkness; the raindrops gleamed in the thin beams of light, looking like small flashing neon tubes.
The only other sound inside the car was the steady sweep back and forth of the windshield wipers. The two occupants were silent; the driver’s attention on the road, the passenger brooding. Neither had spoke since getting into the car a few miles back.
“That was a spiteful thing to say,” said the passenger, finally breaking the silence. She didn’t turn as she spoke as though she were addressing the night.
“So that’s what’s eating you,” the driver said, as he quickly glanced at her and then back to the road.
“Well what did you think it was?” she said snappishly.
“I didn’t know. I was pretty much on my best behavior,” he answered.
“Your `best behavior’, hmmph!” she snorted, mockery sharpening her words to a razor’s edge.
“I was doing all right until you came in.”
“You were letting them tear you apart!”
“We were simply discussing viewpoints on the third world problems. I happened to have written an editorial that they were disagreeing with. I would hardly call that tearing me apart.”
“God! For a newspaper editor you’re a pretty naive person. You could hear the sarcasm in their voices, you could tell by the way they stood while `discussing viewpoints’ as you put it, that they thought you an idiot!”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, trying to contain his anger. “You are talking nonsense.”
“Now I’m talking nonsense? At the party when I started to defend you from that pack of wolves you said, `Excuse my wife, she’s a little drunk.’ Now I’m talking nonsense?”
“Can we discuss this later? Like tomorrow, when you’re sober?”
“There you go again!”
“If you get sober.”
“And what do you mean by that crack?”
“Take it for what it’s worth. You’re a drunkard.”
“A . . . a . . . a drunkard?”
“It wouldn’t surprise me if you’re an alcoholic. I have not seen you sober in over 6 months . . .”
“An alcoholic, why you . . .”
“. . . I’ve been finding hidden bottles around the house . . .”
“Maybe your son . . .”
” . . .you’re eyes are always bloodshot . . .”
“I haven’t been sleeping . . .”
” . . . I come home at 6 from the office and find you passed out on the couch . . . “
“I’m so exhausted from the housework . . .”
” . . . I don’t think the house has been cleaned in months . . .”
“The vacuum’s on the blink and . . . “
“You’ve got an answer for everything, don’t you? I really believe you should see a doctor . . . “
“I don’t need to see a doctor . . .”
” . . . or I’m going to see a lawyer.”
The car became silent again, except for the rhythmic “shh tunk! shh tunk!” of the wipers. She stared at him, her lower lip trembling, tears filling her eyes. His eyes never left the road, as he seemed to be totally in control of his emotions. Only his bloodless knuckles as he tightly gripped the steering wheel and a slight difficulty in swallowing belied otherwise.