You know how when you go to author events and there is inevitably someone who asks that question: Where do you get your ideas? In my experience, you can feel both the author and the audience cringe. Authors, I have read, hate that question and it is mostly obvious that they do which is why the audience cringes too when the question comes up. It doesn’t help that most authors have no good answer. You think the number of times they have been asked the question they’d be able to come up with some kind of stock answer that isn’t so painfully vague.
If by some freak twist of fate I ever become a fiction author, I know exactly what my answer will be.
I’ve mentioned a few times about the universe handing me stories while I am on the bus or the train. The most recent one was back in August. I never did learn the mystery of what was on the back of the bus. However, I am sorry to say the woman who sang out “I’m not afraid of witchcraft!” died in December. She was a story all in herself.
This morning public transit gave me another story.
When I got on the bus at 6:30 a.m., there was only one other person on it. He had a stuffed suitcase and looked a bit ruffled like he had been on a long late night flight. Since the bus connects to a train that goes to the airport, I thought nothing of it.
I sat down and the man immediately turns around and looks at me from across the bus aisle and says,”I just found out my fiance is a prostitute.”
How does a person respond to such a revelation? “Oh,” I said, “I’m sorry.”
The man clearly wanted to talk because he then begins to spill the tale of a 2 a.m. phone call from a potential client and I just couldn’t listen. I did not want to be involved in this. All I could think of was how could you be engaged to someone and just now find this out? I tried to be sympathetic without also being encouraging because I have learned from repeated experience that men on public transit like to latch onto women who are nice to them. Thankfully, he ceased his tale of woe when some other people got on the bus a few stops later.
But what a story, right? Can you imagine all the fictional possibilities?
Allow me, a non-writer, to offer some advice to all you fiction and aspiring fiction writers out there: take public transit. You won’t even have to look for story ideas, they will guaranteed find you. And then when you are famous and at an author event and someone asks that question, you can honestly answer them, I get my ideas while riding the bus.