Saturday, September 12, 2009

Inspiration Comes From Living (Panorama/Pineapple Jacks)

As a novelist, I am often asked the question: "Where do you get ideas for your stories?"

The short answer is, the ideas just come to me. And that is the truth. I don't dream them. I don't struggle to come up with plots. I just, all of a sudden, have an idea and then grab a pen and pad (or napkin), and scribble out the basics of the idea.

However, that new story idea, is just that, an idea. The work I put in comes from fleshing out the idea to make it three-dimensional. Plausible. Believable.

A key to good storytelling, is realistic characters. Crisp dialogue. And plenty of action, regardless of genre. Action is what keeps readers turning pages.

Last night, I was overwhelmed with inspiration.

See, I posted on Facebook that I was headed down to a local watering hole to watch the Yankees/Orioles game. A good friend said she'd see me there. It was "Girls' Night Out" and I was invited to intrude on the get-together.

Most of the women going, I knew. Most I had not seen in 20 years. Not since high school.

I arrived at Pineapple Jacks a bit before seven. Found a place at the bar and ordered a drink. I paid with a twenty. The barmaid, always chatting up patrons, forgot to give me change back. I tried not to get anxious. But twenty bucks for one drink ... it was hard to not fidget on the bar stool.

When she came back around, the guy next to me held out money. She took it as he said, "This isn't my change."

She Oops, and goshed, and gave me the change I waited for. I bought the guy next to me a bubble (next-drink-on-me-kind-of-thing), as kind of a reward for returning a lost wallet idea. We shook hands, he thanked me, I thanked him. In return, the barmaid gave me a bubble. Karma?

My friend Mindy showed up. Said she and her friends had a table out front. I followed. The only guy among eight women. Not a bad night, eh? No. Not at all.

We spent an hour catching up. Turns out most of the women hadn't seen each other since school, either. Cell phones with pics of kids and husbands were passed around. Memories shared. An abundance of laughter ensued.

Unfortunately, I smoke. Bad habit. Filthy. But I do. So did a few of the women. Four of us entered the smoking section at the bar. (One of the only bars I know of in Monroe County that has a smoking section, part of why I love going there to watch games).

While Mindy went to the bar, Abby, Kim and I went to a table. Mindy was harassed by a large man while waiting for a glass of water. The guy, apparently was rude, and obnoxious. His comments to vile to post on a public blog.

When she came back to the table, so did he. Mindy, tough like she is, told the guy off in equally obnoxious language.

See. I'm the guy. There's an obligation to stand up to the man, and put an end to the situation.

So I did. I turned to the guy. He sat next to me. I said, "Look, you're upsetting my friends. We're just here to hang out. I'd appreciate it if you'd leave the table."

Don't think he expected me to stand up to him. He looked at Mindy, who wasn't listening to him, and said to me, "She's got nerve." (Nerve wasn't the word used, but I use poetic license here to get the point across). Then he turned to me. "And so do you."

But he stood up. Was ready to leave. Mindy missed the exchange. So she started in on him. Insults flying from her mouth so fast and furious, all I could do was cringe. I said to Mindy, "Dear, I handled it."

She wasn't listening. Kim and Abby tried to tell Mindy, it was over. That I'd handled it. But Mindy was on a roll.

I expected a chair over the back of the head, or a sucker punch to my ear.

After all, this guy wasn't going to hit a girl. He was going to hit me. Right? Of course right.

Kim, who'd just told me a story about a fight she'd been in at Roller City, had used one of her roller skates to pound her adversary, and assured me--had a bru ha ha erupted, she had my back. Abby, who'd also shared some fight-stories from her youth, let me know she was ready to use her chair to smack the guy across the back of his head if necessary--despite having just undergone back surgery. And Mindy--no doubt--was ready to duke it out.

Eventually, we finished our cigarettes and made our way to safety, er, ah, um, I mean back to the other half of the bar outside of the smoking section, where we joined our other friends.

Of course, we recapped to the other ladies what had just taken place in the smoking section. Everyone laughed. Apparently at my expense.

"If Kim had a roller skate with her, I'd have felt a lot more prepared," I'd said. This, for some reason, made everyone laugh ... more.

My imminent doom seemingly caused much delight.

What I took out of the event?

Emotions. They'd surged. Anger, that some guy would continually insult my friend. Fear (not for me, mind you, for the obnoxious guy. I don't think he knew the hornet's next he'd stirred was buzzing and ready to sting, relentlessly). Courage, for not having backed down. Inspiration, because I knew I'd get a blog out of the deal, and some character attributes to store away for use in future writings.

All in all. It had been a great night, with many, many inspirations tucked away.

Had I of stayed home, on the sofa, in jammers, and watched the Yankees game on TV, I'd have missed out on all the free inspiration oozing at Pineapple Jacks.

You want to write? You have to live. No way around it.

--Hey? Did the Yankees even win? I missed the whole game!

Until next time ....

Thomas Phillips,
Author of the suspense thriller, The Molech Prophecy
(Click the link above to purchase a copy of my novel)

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