Thursday, June 26, 2008

Found Words and Wonder Whys

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?


Anonymous said...

That looks like a prop from a wind turbine riding on a flatbed going down the interstate. That's my guess anyhow....

What is it?


BYRSTN said...

I'm pretty sure I know what it is...if it's the same thing that came through Bristol heading to Maryland. It caused a lot of driving headaches. Wouldn't want to be following it.

MK Stover said...

I wrote an entire book from this exact 'wonder why?'!
Great minds think alike ;).

A couple of pieces of Vultures are posted on my blog (search the Vulture label). The first three chapters were posted over at earlier this year. As a matter of fact, you can still access it here:

The story starts with the dog shooting.

City Mouse said...

There is an excellent website that is just what you are talking about, New York City style - it's (Fair warning - it's not for the faint of heart!)

As for that thing, I think its a folded up traveling carnival ride.

Granny Sue said...

Good suggestions about the photo. Aaron, you might have been privy to insider information!

Aaron is right--it is one of the propeller blades for the giant wind turbines that generate electricity. I wonder where it was going? There has been great controversy over plans to build a wind farm in Greenbrier County. The one up by Parsons, WV is a real sight. I wrote about it last July on my blog, with photos.

MK--I'll read those chapters soon. I'm intrigued. And CM--NY is probably eavesdropper's paradise--if you can listen fast enough! I wonder if my southern ears could follow along?

Betty, good to see you here again! I stopped by your blog this morning.

Anonymous said...

Edison Mission is building 32 sites in Somerset, PA and the Mt Storm project is full underway with several turbines in place and more being built.

Spent an entire Sunday laying on my back on Mt Storm Lake looking at the giants.

The give-away was the stickers on the truckbed. From the front, white,red,blank,white,red,blank. You can always tell which end is the front this way...


Granny Sue said...

Aha! That explains how you knew what it was! I expect we'll be able to see the Mt. Storm turbines from George's house? I have mixed feelings about that.

Tipper said...

I over heard "Now why did you have to do it?" spoke in a very pleading voice. Made me wonder did someone get hurt, wreck the car, ruin the sofa, sell the house. Who knows? But it is fun to think about. Great post.

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