Workshop > Little ideas
Nov 03

Little ideas

Sometimes the best stories come from little tiny things that you notice: Something overheard. Something odd you see. Something said the wrong way. Something out of place.

As a journalist, I used to call these "the little bells," as in when a little bell that would go off in your head to tell you that something was interesting or wrong or totally new and cool. Like when you were interviewing someone (Whoa. Did he really say that? ... or What's he hiding?).

One of the best practitioners of Story Mining from Everyday Life is Rusty DeWees, who some in Vermont may know as The Logger (an oddball, backwoods, hard-driving comic character that DeWees performs as) but who also is an accomplished theater, movie and television actor and writer. He is really great at noticing what he is noticing and turning those things into stories.
An example

One day, DeWees and a companion were driving home and they noticed a dog that was missing a leg. “Hey," said Rusty's friend, "look at that one-leggid dog.” They laughed at the mistake. But as soon as he got home, DeWees started writing. And after he worked on it a while, he developed it into a story. Here's how he tells how the story of Liddle and Craig came about.

And here's how Rusty performed the final version of his story in his character of The Logger:
(A link to the text (and audio) of DeWees performing this story as The Logger.)

What I love is how DeWees spun such a funny -- and heart-warming story -- out of a momentary malapropism.

This XP isn't intended to turn you into a performance artist like Rusty -- he's been at it for a while -- but it is intended to get you thinking about what you notice -- something you see or hear or experience that is odd or funny or jolting, something that could be turned into a story.
Over the next day or so start Mining Everyday Life for some story starters -- something that strikes you funny or weird or quirky from the outside world. Make up a list. Quotes, specific details, a sudden confrontation, something lost or out of place, weird coincidence, something you hear on the radio or see on the InterWeb or TV, a funny roadsign, whatever. Something you notice, something that sticks in your brain. Jot it down. Jot them all down by clicking the RESPOND button and posting there here. And keep adding to them.
Visit some of the other participants' posts. Comment; give some suggestions on how they can expand an item or two on their list into a story.