Shut Up and Listen

I’ve been out of touch recently, lavishing in the brief respite from the buzzing schedule of my normal life. My family and I have seen a few sights, visited with grandparents, attended a reunion and just relaxed. I’ve enjoyed basking in the sun by the pool with a favorite book (that I’m reading for fun, not research), the air permeated by the familiar scent of sunscreen while my kids swim with their friends. I’ve enjoyed taking my girls to the mall where we can walk and talk, have lunch and window shop. And of course lots of giggling over boys—I do live with two teenage girls after all. For me, a family vacation allows time to unwind and reconnect with each other without the day-to-day distractions of home life.

During the school year I’m all about schedules. Who has to be where? Soccer, field hockey, volleyball, basketball, track, chorus, cello, friends, doctor’s appointments, dental appointments, sleepovers, and then some…Whew, it makes me tired just writing it. 🙂 We all have these scheduling drains on our lives and we all know how hard it is to find time to write, but have you ever considered the story inspiration that surrounds you everyday while you’re going about your normal routine?

It might be the next table’s conversation while you’re at lunch or someone standing in line with you at your local coffee shop, a teacher or coach at your child’s school or the receptionist at your pediatrician’s office. You know how it happens, you’re standing there minding your own business, and suddenly, someone does or says something outrageous or hilarious or poignant and the next thing you know, a story or character idea flashes in your head. You stand there thinking, I so need to put that in a book. It’s an A-ha moment in which your universe suddenly makes sense, at least the one you have built in your story.

Earlier this month we attended my husband’s 25-year high school reunion and I have to say inspiration abounded. Fortunately, most of the attendees had moved on from being the ‘nerd’ or the ‘cheerleader’ to just being people with jobs and lives with bigger things to worry about than who’s going out with whom and what kind of car they drive. But how could I not zero in on the stereotypical ‘obnoxious jock’ that spent his high school years making everyone else’s life miserable. The poor man is 43 and spent his evening reminiscing over his “glory days” of giving wedgies in the locker room and proving that he continues to be a foul mouthed jerk by screaming, “Nipples” when the photographer was taking a group picture.

Another comical inspiration occurred recently while on a family trip. We stopped at a small roadside diner for lunch and I thought I was going to spew soda through my nose when the lady taking orders turned around and in the worst southern accent you can imagine and shouted across the entire restaurant, “Chicken up! Pluck ‘em and fry ‘em!” I mean honestly, who does that? Well apparently, she does.

So whether it comes in the form of a news article, television, movie or a person on the street little tidbits sneak in and make you think, Wow, what a great idea for a book, or a scene, or a character, or dialog… and the next thing you know your story takes off.  Now that I have told you my secrets for story inspiration it’s time for you to check in and share, where do you find your inspiration?