Elizabeth: Story is all Around

Do you ever make up stories about random people you encounter?

I most commonly do so when I’m in traffic. As a driver speeds by me, weaving in and out of traffic, I may imagine him as a secret agent  in a race to diffuse a critical situation, or maybe it’s someone in a rush to get to the hospital to say their final goodbyes to a loved one before it is too late. The stories are both fun and a good way to keep my blood-pressure down.

My favorite movie, Love Actually, states that love is all around; I’d add that story is all around too. This has especially been true for me in recent weeks, where I’ve spent a fair amount of time in airports, on planes, in waiting rooms, and in crowds.

During a recent flight delay, for example, I whiled array the time spinning mental tales about the shaven, beringed, tattooed woman in front of me (grown up on the streets in a rough-and-tumble gang, now running a charitable foundation for at-risk youth); the sulky teenager glued to her cell phone who periodically glared in her parents’ direction (she is being sent off to boarding school number five,after having just been chucked out of number four for running an illegal but very profitable term paper scheme); and the down-on-his luck looking man in an ill-fitting suit with a battered briefcase (a high-powered stock trader who got cocky in his success, bet all on a risk deal, and lost everything; now working as a low-level salesman for a refuse-can company).

Sometimes the people I encounter and the stories they inspire evolve into characters in my writing or at least inspire other ideas, but more often than not they are just an entertaining diversion.

So how about you? Is the world around you populated with people and stories of your own devising, or is it just me?

4 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Story is all Around

  1. What I do, particularly with people who aggravate me, is try to establish a story for them that makes sense of the behavior. So like your traffic-weaving, secret agent driver, I usually go with pregnant woman in the backseat. When it’s a surly teen, I might decide that she’s a victim of abuse, or just has neglectful parents. Like you, the backgrounds I decide on are usually meant to bring down my blood pressure. And you never know—people really do have astonishing stories. There really might be a completely understandable reason for what appears to be poor social behavior.

    • You are right, Kay. People can often have completely understandable reasons for what can appear to be poor behavior. I got much better about remembering that when my mom had Alzheimer’s and often had seemingly poor behavior of her own.

  2. Actually, I think you are a quite normal writer. I rarely write based on real-life situations and characters. They may flavor a story, but I don’t see a person and riff into a written story. Of course one can’t help speculating, stereotyping and putting someone into a conceptual pigeonhole, but I can’t get stories out of that, usually.

    Although, I remember one NaNo where my story was inspired by my friend, who had missed a flight because her dog wasn’t registered with the airline or something. I combined that with a comedian I was crushing on at the time, and came up with a contemporary romance (well, maybe woman’s journey). It was a lot of fun to write, and I should revisit it sometime to see if there’s anything I can salvage from that story. It wasn’t really an escalating plot, though. More like a Tokyo travelogue and a series of vignettes with a bit of a character arc for the heroine by the end.

    • I remember hearing about that NaNo story of yours, Michaeline. I wondered what had happened to it. Would love to see how it all turned out.

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