A long time ago, my brother (Hi, Tony!) introduced me to a fad called Magic Eye Pictures. They were fascinating 3D pictures printed in a 2D format. The trick was learning to focus your eyes in such a way that the three dimensional image hidden in the pattern emerged for you to see.
The same is true of story ideas. They are all around you, not so much hidden as unseen. Prolific writers have learned to spy the story ideas hidden in the pattern of life. They know that stories can come from anywhere, so long as you allow yourself to see them. For instance, The Boy is currently seeking a new (to him) car. He has a limited budget and an unlimited threshold for reading craigslist. Yesterday he poked his head into my office to read an ad that amused him. I tweeted it at the time but here’s an excerpt since the ads on the list vanish over time.
This car has some cosmetic damage from my hitting deer. Really the deer came after me. All deer survived as well as the Honda. The encounters all happen with just glancing blows or stops that were just 1 foot too far. I did not repair the wrinkled sheet metal. No major wrecks!
The A/C pump locked up, I stopped and cut the belt and drove on….. A/C does not work.
The exhaust broke loose Friday on my way to work, the exhaust is in the trunk….. the car is now louder!
The ad made me chuckle, but something else happened. I started seeing the potential for a story (or possibly two). This person started to evolve into a full-fledged character in my head along with a story about a deer-magnet car.
The ideas for fiction are everywhere. The writers for TV medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy frequently find inspiration for stories in the news. And Hyde once played mix and match with some Taco Bell sauce packets (the ones with the sayings) and created a piece of found fiction.
The assignment for this weekend is to develop your own Magic Eye. Make a conscious effort to see the story ideas hidden behind the pattern of everyday life. Pick one that catches your fancy and write 500 words of flash fiction. Feel free to post your efforts in the comments if you like.
Caution: Once you learn to look beyond the pattern, you might have trouble un-seeing the ideas all around you.