Snippets of everyday moments

On the bridge over the highway, some preschool children were waving at the cars passing by underneath. A truck driver spotted them and honked his horn, and the children jumped up and down in delight. I jotted down the story in my notebook.

At the grocery store, my eyes caught a young woman with a long shopping list and a story started to spin in my head on my way to the milk shelves. Notebook time.

From snippets of everyday moments like these, great stories can be born. Maybe the truck driver is transporting red apples from Italy, and maybe the young woman with the long shopping list will buy some for her apple pie. There’s a line running from a family’s apple farm in the south of Europe to a truck driver spending endless hours behind the wheel, honking his horn at a group of children while missing his own, to a woman with a desperate look in her eyes at a Nordic grocery store shopping for a family dinner she’s not capable of making.

Of course, the beauty would be to write the actual stories of the people we meet. Like the one of the man who stood bent in a 45-degree angle over a garbage bin he used as a stand for his beer cans, hacking and hawking and coughing up a slimy glob that landed a couple of feet away from him. He gave me a friendly “Hello” as I walked by. I waved back. I wonder what his story is. He’s in the notebook, too.

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Great ideas thrive in a great notebook. I have checked out five: Hunting for the perfect notebook

WordPress Daily Prompts: Snippet

No conflict, no story

While in observation mode, I find myself peeping into other’s shopping carts at the grocery store. Like the cart of the young woman with a shopping list extra long. In my writer’s mind, I imagine that she’ll be hosting a dinner for her in-laws and has prepared an exact list of ingredients for the three courses she plans to serve. Not exactly a Martha Stewart in the kitchen, she has bitten off way more than she can chew, but everything just has to be perfect — she tries so hard in the life as a rookie wife.

Obviously, things cannot run smoothly, otherwise there is no conflict, no story. She knows that her wannabe something brother-in-law will boast about the food in the classy restaurant he claims to frequent. Her mother-in-law will give a lecture on how she would prepare the same dishes. Of course, she never fries mushrooms, she sautées champignons.

So what should our girl with the long shopping list do?

Should we let her fail royally? Or let her think, “Screw them,” and make her drain her credit card and order in from that classy restaurant? The SoB brother-in-law will not even notice, and the bitch-in-law will go on bragging about her own cooking skills and sautéed champignons. Will she — our protagonist, that is — tell them about her little scheme? Gloat inside? Or, even better: Save it for later and throw it in their faces at an appropriate time, when she has built the courage to announce that she has had it with them?

And where the hell is her husband? Maybe we should just have her serve hot dogs or order pizzas.

I groan to myself and pick up a carton of milk.

“The cat sat on the mat” is not a story. “The cat sat on the dog’s mat” is a story.
— John le Carré

 
WordPress Daily Prompts: Mushroom

To collect moments

Streets are made to be walked, observed, and strutted along as if a catwalk. Every once in a while we should adopt a modern flâneur’s attitude and stroll the streets. Walk down this street, look around that corner, say hello to a stranger. Sit ourselves down in a coffee shop and watch people passing by. Then go home and write about it.

What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open. Life swarms with innocent monsters.
— Charles Baudelaire

WordPress Daily Prompts: Strut