Life Story

Our topic this month is story ideas and where they come from. My answer is pretty simple. My story ideas come from the newspaper.

I may be the last person in the Washington, D.C. area who still gets home delivery of the Washington Post. You know, the newspaper ON PAPER. I find great story ideas every morning before I’ve even finished my toast.

I’ve learned that the Chinese government is launching a massive surveillance and facial recognition program to spy on citizens. The government plans to give each person a “social score” depending on where they go, what they do and who they hang out with. That’s a dystopian novel waiting to be written.

I’ve learned that a technology company in Wisconsin installed microchips in 100 employee volunteers. The microchips allow them to log onto their computers or buy candy from a company vending machine with a swipe of the arm. Science fiction is no longer fiction.

I also read the obituaries because every life is a story. I look at their picture and read about who they married, how many children they had, what they did for a living, how long they lived and why they died. You can read between the facts and catch a glimpse of the joys and the hardships of a human life.

One recent obituary described the life a woman who worked in the resistance during the Nazi occupation of Holland. She worked with her sister, starting when she was only fourteen years old. She lived to be 92 and the headline over her obituary described her as a “Resistance fighter who lured Nazis to execution.” Her life was fascinating, heroic and inspiring. And I would have missed this if I hadn’t read the obituaries that day.

I clip all these articles (again, because I’m the last person in America who still reads the newspaper ON PAPER) and I put them in file marked “Ideas.” Some of these articles will be useful. Others won’t.

I keep what I find intriguing. Someone once told me that writers are like magpies. We pick up bright, shiny objects and use them to create something new. I think that’s an accurate description how imagination works.

As a reader and a writer, reading the newspaper every morning assures me that as long as humans live and breathe and love and die, we will always have stories.

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