I'm a great people watcher.
I like nothing better than to sit on a bench in the park, or at a café, and lightly clock the myriad social interactions around me. One of these observed moments, stored deeply and mostly forgotten, will often kick up a story idea. For instance, a heated argument between a couple, a flash of anger from a child, the sudden fear on a man's face, a moment of kindness from a stranger to the person behind them in the queue. It's the way people interact that's important - potency of feeling - smiles, humour, jealousy, attraction.
And then the trick is to expand on that moment and see where it goes.
For instance -
Why did that person give help when they didn't need to?
What might have spurred them to act?
What or who could the person they helped remind them of?
Did they help because they felt guilty?
And the recipient of the kindness, what will they go on to do ?
How might that one small interaction colour their whole day ?
Or what if it influenced their whole life, for good or for bad?
One idea may take hold and ring true.
That one idea acts a bit like the eye of a tornado - the eye of the tornado which holds the power to the whole story.
We all know of powerful books which are kicked off, or underpinned, or revolve around the potent love between siblings -
The Hunger Games (by Suzanne Collins) where Katniss volunteers for the reaping to protect her younger sister, Prim, from certain death
Private Peaceful, (by Michael Morpurgo) in which the tragic fate of two brothers during War time is retold by the younger, less courageous one
and on a slightly different note -
Sophie's Choice (by William Styron) in which the mother will ultimately reveal the terrible choice she made concerning her own two children, the horror of which has haunted her forever
My inspiration for Trading with Death came from the interaction between a sister and her sick sibling.
I witnessed such an interaction and it triggered me to imagine how such a scenario could play out. What might it lead to that would be world-changing for both? What might love and torture spur one to do for the other? What sacrifices might they make? How terribly deep did their feelings go? Could I create a story which revolved around that dynamic and those tearing emotions?
People watching is a wonderful way to fill your mind brim-full of snippets of interactions.
Snippets that seem meaningless and transitory. The family you sat next to on the bus will get off at the next stop, but the impressions they leave will linger and maybe the tiniest moment observed between them may weave itself into the beginnings of another story.
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