Have you ever turned your head on the street after hearing someone say something arresting? intriguing? strange? scary?
If you remembered those words, those are "found words." I love to listen to people talking, to catch a phrase here and there and wonder what the rest of the story might be. Two of my favorites:
"I asked him why he didn't call me after he was shot!" (duh)
"There was a funeral but no body."
I added a new favorite this weekend in Glenville:
"And then I shot the dog."
I stopped dead in the street and turned to look at the speaker. She stood in the midst of a circle of women who had sought the shade of a store awning. She was mild enough looking woman, in her middle 30's with short curly hair and a farmer's tan.
"Now there is a story I would like to hear," I told her, "but I think it might be even better to just wonder what the story might be."
She nodded. Being a small-town country woman, she understood perfectly the value of wondering about something overheard.
Sometimes the stories we imagine are better than the actual tale itself.
I wonder: what if the dog got into the chicken house? chased the goats? stole the meat from the barbecue? bit a child? chewed up her winning lottery ticket? dug up her garden?
What sin had the dog committed to be condemned to death? I'm a dog lover, so it would have to be pretty serious for me to shoot a dog--killing livestock or attacking a person are about the only reasons I can think of.
I'm not happy that a dog got shot, of course. But I am intrigued with the possibilities of the story. It's the "what if'" that sparks most writers to write a tale, imagining the possible variations on the question that begins with those two words.
Found words are not the only story starters. A few weeks ago we noticed that all the windows were broken out of a vehicle at the end of our road. A few days later, all the windows were broken out of the second vehicle at the same house. Why? Who was so angry/upset/vengeful that they deliberately shattered the windows? I know most of my neighbors, but the people who live in that house are fairly new to the community.
So the questions remain. The windows seem to be repaired, and there have been no repeat incidents. Did the police get involved and catch the vandal? Crime is so rare here that when it rears its head we're stunned by its viciousness.
But why did it happen? For a writer, the possibilities provide the beginnings of a story.
Here is a wonder-why photo. Can you guess what it is? I'll tell you tomorrow. This photo was taken on interstate 81 in Virginia, and it was impossible to get the whole thing into the picture. But it sure left many opportunities to spin a tale in its wake.
Do you have any found words, what ifs or wonder whys to share?