You know, in my first blog, I “changed the names to protect the innocent.” But you know what? If you made your way into one of my blogs, chances are there’s nothing innocent about you. Chances. But regardless. (Or as some people I know mights say, irregardless …”
As a novelist, I am often asked the question: “Where do you get ideas for your stories?” (Now you can google me. But you won’t find me. My name is not Chase N. Nichols. So writing these blogs is going to do nothing to help me sell books. But I am not writing the blog to sell books. Like I say in my bio — it’s therapeutic. It’s all about the therapy).
Anyway, the short answer is, (and the question was … “Where do you get ideas for your stories”?) 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.
One 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. Yeah, I’m that old.
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 stool.
When she came back around, the guy next to me held out money. She took it as he said, “This wasn’t my change.”
She made a stupid, Oops-face, and goshed, gollied, and gave me back my change. What did I do? I bought the guy next to me a bubble (next-drink-on-me-kind-of-thing), as a 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?
I’m going to admit something here. Two years prior, I had no idea what a “bubble” was. Me and this girl Franca met out for drinks. She bought me a bubble. The barmaid slid a shot glass in front of me. Mouth down. So I said, “What’s this?”
“A bubble,” the barmaid said.
“Oh, no,” I said, and pushed the shot glass toward her. “I only drink beer.”
Franca and the barmaid laughed at me pretty good. I got married at twenty-one. Had my first son by twenty-two. I didn’t know much about bars, and bar-slang.
A bubble–good for a next drink free. Just in case any of you reading this were like me, and had no idea what I was writing about.
So my friend Mindy showed up. Said she and her friends had a table out front. In back was smoking. I smoked. I guess some of the other ladies did not. I followed Mindy. Turned out I was the only guy among eight women. Not a bad night, eh? No. Not at all. Not at first, anyway.
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. Blah, blah, blah, right? But it was all good. All fun. I was having a good time. Hadn’t even watched an inning of the ballgame.
Unfortunately, like I said, I smoke. Bad habit. Filthy. But I do. So did a few of the women. Four of us entered the smoking section of 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 so much).
While Mindy went to the bar, Abby, Kim and I found a table. Turns out, Mindy was harassed by a large man while waiting for a glass of water. The guy, apparently, was rude and obnoxious. His comments too 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 at the table with four girls. 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. His buddies were at the table behind us. He looked at Mindy, who wasn’t listening to him, and said to me, “She’s got balls.” Then he turned to me. “And you got bigger balls.”
But he stood up. Was ready to leave. Mindy missed the exchange. The guy was up, and staring at me. She must have misread it. So what did she do? She started in on him. Insults flying from her mouth so fast and furious, all I could do was cringe. AT one point, perhaps her crowning moment, she called him a “fat-fucking-keg,” and made like a basketball hoop with her arms outstretched to mimic the size of the guy’s gut.
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, she was on a roll. I can’t recall much of else of what she said, of what she called this man, but I do recall feeling my intestines coil, and my bowels liquefy some.
I expected a chair over the back of the head, or a sucker punch to my ear. Something. Anything. It had to be coming.
After all, this guy wasn’t going to hit a girl. He was going to hit me. Right? Of course right. Mindy would piss him off and I’d get the shit kicked out of me by Keg and his buddies.
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 an 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 just having undergone back surgery. And Mindy–no doubt–was ready to duke it out from the get-go.
What happened next caught us all off guard. Keg and his pals simply left. I’d love to say it was me that intimidated the group to swiftly exit. But it would be fairer to say, though harder to admit, that I think if anything, Mindy scared the shit out of them.
Eventually, we finished our cigarettes and made our way to the other half of the bar outside of the smoking section, where we rejoined our friends.Of course, we recapped what just happened. Everyone laughed. Apparently at my expense. At least it felt that way.
“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, but 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.
What I don’t know, what I may never know is, did the Yankees even win? I missed the entire game!
Until next time ….
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