So, I'm at the grocery store putting pears in the provided thin bag, when I feel something against my foot. The bag had ripped and I had just been dropping pears on the floor. I swooped them up and got a new bag, then continued down the fruit aisle. It occurred to me that my teenager would have been mortified, thinking everyone saw her drop the fruit. I smiled to myself in nostalgia for the days I was that young. Yeah, maybe a kid saw and giggled, but truthfully no one cares diddlysquat that a bag broke.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
What if someone did care? I set the bananas down in the cart, and leaned lightly on its handle. I could picture myself seeing a woman standing at the pears, dropping pears, putting one back and re-bagging the rest, walking away.
What next? I am still inside the mind of my imaginary observer. I walk to the pears. I pick up the pear she returned. I hold it. She had touched this pear. I smell it. It smells sweet, like her. I put it in my coat pocket. It's mine, now. I turn and keep following her.
Don't worry, I'm not a stalker. Just a writer. Kinda creepy how easy it is for me to put myself in a stalker's shoes, though, isn't it?
That's what writers do. We can see a story in just about anything, no matter how mundane. I can find foreshadowing in the tying of my sneakers. I can see evil in a couple of dropped pears. I can recognize romance in a penny on a sidewalk.
I know I'm not normal. I can walk past the penny or pick it up, just like anyone, but as I'm walking away, there will be this little tapping at the back of my mind. This little "what if" thought that's asking for my attention. If I'm not in the middle of anything - like driving - then I'll take out my notepad and jot it down. I have bags of scrap pieces of paper with thoughts jotted down. And boxes. And little wicker baskets. But I digress.
When I'm writing for a client, I steer the "what if." A restaurant's "what if" involves a person walking in and ordering something. It's my job to make that everyday occurrence appealing. A nonprofit's "what if" involves donations. It's my job to make that annual report informative and compelling.
I couldn't write it, any of it, without that little ...Tap. Tap. Tap.