We’ve all heard the saying ‘one persons trash is another person’s treasure’. Well, I was thinking about that this week and how it relates to all aspects of our lives.
The rural community where I reside was recently dragged reluctantly into the 21stcentury when mail delivery commenced. Now I don’t have to drive to the locked box, because mail and parcels are delivered to my door. What will they think of next?
Most of you will cringe after a lifetime being bombarded by advertising paraphernalia, but I’m excited about finally receiving junk mail. For the past decade I’ve had to browse my mother-in-laws pile when I visit. Now I will have my very own brochures of glossy advertisements tempting me to purchase items I didn’t know I needed. Hmm… I’m starting to see the pitfalls.
Anyway, it got me to thinking about how one person’s trash (or junk mail, or perceived problem) is another person’s treasure (or opportunity). As a writer I constantly seek out details that we take for granted in our daily lives. The minutiae that most people walk past is a treasure trove of ingredients to enliven characters and scenery. The oddities
you avoid eye contact with make rich personal ticks and add layers to credible characters.
I notice the red new growth on the variegated maple, how the cracks in the footpath follow the direction of tree roots, or the
blind cords seem to tangle when no-one is around. When a summer rain storm catches me out I stop to take in its scent, the feel of droplets sliding down my cheeks and the way everyone scuttles for cover.
Of course, it’s not just the mundane details writers are interested in. I’m ashamed to admit to spending half an hour
brainstorming ways to describe the sound of cards being
shuffled. (Yes, I know I have problems...)
But unusual features and characteristics mean more than descriptive fodder. Why describe a woman’s hair as red when you can say it shines like bronze? Why just describe the colour when you can add movement or texture or any of the other senses that bring our world to life? What if I told you the woman dashed across the pavement, bright flames of hair
fluttering behind? Now you have a total picture of her, what she’s doing and you might even guess at her personality.
While I’m watching for details, I am also watching for opportunities. Every conversation I overhear and every action I see is a possible trigger for a plot twist or storyline. I’m a firm believer that writers must have enquiring minds, to question what makes a person behave in a certain way, what life events shaped their personality, what passion drives a person to behave out of character. From all of the examination comes ideas, and that’s where stories blossom. Ideas about what drives people and the dreadful conflicts they might face.
And that’s how it is with storytelling. There is nothing that can’t be woven into a story. It only remains to be seen if the writer is observant enough to notice the details, or bold enough to turn someone else’s trash into entertainment
What books have evoked passion and colourful imagines for you?