Monday, March 26, 2018

Story Ideas & the Toy Vending Machine

You know when you wrap up at the dentist and the hygienist offers you a shot at the itty bitty vending-type machine, and you get a little excited wondering what you’ll get? This process similar to what it’s like coming up with story ideas for me.

Ideas bombard me at any given moment. I keep a notebook by my bed, in my car, and on various counters of my house. Because they sneak attack—ideas do. And every time I weigh the validity of a story idea it feels like selecting something out of a toy vending machine. I’ve gotten better at figuring out which are the best toys to get.

Some days I end up with . . .

A bouncy ball
You think this is a good one at first. Mildly entertaining. Fun to zing up to the ceiling. It responds to your exertion. All good, right? But there comes a day when the bouncy ball is quarantined under a sofa and gets coated with so much dust it’s difficult to see what it ever was in the first place.

Silly string
Yay. It’s fun. It’s entertaining. For about two seconds, then it’s a mess.

A stuffed animal
This one is tricky because it likes to fool you. Look at me, I’m so cute. You can cuddle me and love me. Until I end up in the back of your closet because my weird eyebrows and overly stuffed stomach freak you out at night. Stuffed animals seems like such an ideal grab at first, but they’re quickly neglected. Especially the vending machine variety because they’re made cheap, prone to ripping easily and destined to bore.

A plastic slinky
Another initial cheer when an idea like this strikes. I take notes. I think I’ve got a good thing going, but have you ever tried a plastic slinky? They have the power of Eeyore before a nap. And they readily twist up. Not writer’s gold, the plastic slinky. Better to slink it back.

Fake teeth
I have a thing against chewed gum. And fake teeth. And anything that has the potential to collect saliva. Fake teeth also seem intriguing at first. Try ’em on. Have a laugh with them. Then what? They sit in some drawer gathering germs, forgotten.

It’s not until Silly Putty falls into my hands that I know I’ve got a real thing going.

Silly Putty
More like writer idea gold. When a concept like this sparks, I trust it’s transferred from something that’s left a great impression on me, such a lasting impression it leaves a stamp on me. (Think Silly Putty and a newspaper.) Then, and here’s the coolest thing, with an idea like this, I know I’m able to smash it up, bend it, and contort it into an entirely different shape—that impression. And if you’re like my kids were when they were little, you smack Silly Putty and leave it smashed onto your forehead for as long as humanly possible. And I don’t think I know a writer alive who doesn’t want people to have their stories smashed on their foreheads. Silly Putty is the holy grail of toy vending machine grabs. It’s the idea maker and giver all in one.

Authors, always root for the Silly Putty to fall into your hands.

*Blogging break. Be back on April 9th.

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