Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The idea machine

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could write like a Mad Lib: insert character names, a general conflict, and some strong verbs, and then presto, out pops the story? I covet such a machine to do all the hard thinking for me, but instead I’m left with this silly life and even sillier brain, and then folks have the comic genius to ask how I get ideas for stories. Well…

Gathered round a tiny table on a girls’ night out, we all watched the same tall drink of water cross to the bar. He was smokin. One pal mentioned that she’d have to go home and do laundry, which I thought was a funny thing to say. I pressed, and she explained that the vibration of a clothes dryer when you’re sitting on it can be an excellent clitoral stimulant. Next day I got the oil changed in my crappy broken-down Honda, and this sweet vintage muscle car rolled in awash in candy-apple hotness. I thought about the clothes dryer and looked at the car, and then I wrote Negotiations.

On a Saturday morning made for lazy, I lay on the sofa reading a classic bodice-ripper. My husband wandered in, fresh out of the shower, and asked if I was reading something good. I said yes, but I wasn’t really paying attention. Was distracted by the bead of water that slid down his neck, wept by his still damp hair. I told him the book was good. He asked if it was good enough. And that led to, among other things, Unless.

When I was thirteen, I went with my older sister to a dancehall in backwoods Texas to see this unknown crooner named George Strait perform. I let Sis dress me up in appropriate duds: jeans, boots, and a belt buckle the size of my head. The place had two open walls and no air conditioning, and it was high summer. Sweltering. But something about the thrum of music so loud I could feel it at the base of my spine and in my throat, combined with the sweat of the crowd, saw dust on the raw pine floor, and the purr of that man’s voice stuck in my brain for long years later. And when I was sitting down to write about a cowboy, I knew right away that’s where he’d be, in that dancehall, sittin' back and nursing his beer. (This story isn’t available anywhere yet, but it’s complete.)

So, really, I guess I do have an idea machine. It’s just plain old living, coupled with a filthy mind. TM. No batteries needed.


Savanna Kougar said...

Ah, a filthy mind can be a writer's best friend. That and a vivid imagination. ~smiles~

Kayelle Allen said...

Oooh I was right there with you on that sawdust dancefloor! And the bead of water, and the candy apple red car... Damn. Your idea machine seems to be-- um... well-oiled. ;)