I once heard a stage actor say that he chose his career because of the opportunity, in one lifetime, to live hundreds. Those words have never left me. The only difference between his life and mine is that, as a writer, I can live hundreds of lifetimes within a week.
Monday morning. The alarm goes off and I reach over to slap it, vaguely wishing I was married so I could tell my husband to do it… or perhaps a well-trained dog. Story idea: jealous dog when owner gets married. Hmm, too cliché, perhaps?
I drive to work, grumbling about the construction on my street adding ten minutes to my commute. Title: The 10-minute Difference: What you could be doing when stuck in traffic. First could-be: You could be reading this book. Hmm, too cheesy?
My coworkers give muffled greetings over their coffee mugs, clutching their ceramic treasures as if they contained the fountain of youth. Keep that description. It will fit in the novel about the reporting intern. What if she prefers tea? The seasoned reporters would tease her mercilessly… oh, perfect!
Janet walks by with her Starbucks, her long hair still slightly damp. Character profile: Woman married for first time in late 40s, step-grandma with no kids of own. Waist-length hair still dyed blonde. Careers: special ed teacher, tutor, belly dancer. Yes, belly dancer. Hmm, should probably change the name. Maybe spread out the details. She’s a little too eccentric to be believable on the page.
As I wait for the computer programs to load, I find myself thinking about life before computers. How much harder, and yet more fun that would be, somehow. Story idea: High-profile exec tries two weeks without technology – twist: loves the change from the first and decides to make whole company retro… Hmm, what’s the point? Scrap it.
Title: Scrap it – One writer’s trash is another’s new novel. All those story ideas I’ll never have time to write as a prompt book for teachers and writers. Or even better – a website. Like a Craigslist of story ideas.
I go throughout my morning, being moderately productive and trying to make sure none of my coworkers think I am mentally unstable because I keep trying out accents for my reporting intern. Irish is the most fun by far, but impractical – why would she be at a Smalltown, USA paper? What if she is actually from a neighboring small town but creates this persona to make herself feel important? Problem: parents. This is why most books have orphans for heroes.
Story idea: Preteen with large, boisterous family suddenly starts insisting she is from another country because she feels overwhelmed by siblings. Ugh, predictable, too easy to fix… unless she really is adopted and finds out because of her acting out… Add that one to the file.
By the time lunch comes around, I am completely immersed in the world of my preteen and currently deciding if she is French or Indian. As I enter the lunch room, still muttering about Paris versus the Bay of Bengal, I nearly run into the most recent hire, a dark-haired, tall specimen of the male species who conveniently is near my age. I’m not one to flirt, but I rather wish he would. Note: keep that description for the mission trip idea. The MC needs to be interested but unwilling to act. Why? Because everyone gets distracted by this on mission trips… Twist: she doesn’t act on attraction and… hmm, add to the “unfinished” pile.
My lunch is looking less and less appetizing the more I stare at it. Cooking for one is a waste of time to me, but few of my coworkers seem to share the attitude. Story idea: a look at corporate America in the break/lunch room.
I’m starting to feel exhausted by 2 o’clock, and it’s only Monday. Sometimes I think I am like a secret agent, hiding my many other lives from my coworkers. This life would make James Bond consider retirement.
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