I was walking through my college campus when I passed a man who was on his phone, a cigarette held casually between two fingers in his free hand as he paced back and forth in front of the library. As I walked past him, he said into the phone, “the last time I saw Sis, Winnie and Grandma they seemed good. Thinks looked pretty civil.”
Now, being a writer and a person who constantly itches for those details that will turn a good story into a great one, I immediately started going through the inevitable questions that follow after hearing such an enticing line. Who was Winnie? What was the backstory with these three people in the man’s life, and what event had caused them, in the past, to be uncivil toward each other? Had I been a braver person I would’ve gone up to the gentleman and asked him outright. But you can imagine how that might turn out:
“Excuse me, sir, I couldn’t help but overhear. You were talking about your sister and grandmother. And Winnie? It’s just that, well, I’m a writer you see. And I’ve been working on honing my craft in literary fiction. And the way you introduced Sis, Winnie and Grandma just now, they have such potential. So I was wondering if, maybe, you wouldn’t mind telling me a little more about them?”
Needless to say, that wouldn’t pan over well. But that’s what makes us writers. We will overhear snippets of interesting conversation or witness strange scenes on a day to day basis. I had an assignment in a creative writing class where we had to go to a coffee shop and just sit, watch and listen, so that we could generate a story.
The resources are there. Life gives us lemons everyday. It’s up to us to either squeeze them or let them rot.