Last night, two stories appeared at our door. No, the picture above is not the door on my house--just a lovely looking door. The point is that when you open the door, you never know what kind of story might be on the other side.
Our doorbell rang as I was getting ready to fix dinner. Ken answered and a neighbor across the street asked if he could still buy something from our sale. He and his wife had been over the day before and purchased a few things. He'd been thinking about a lightweight vacuum cleaner we had and decided to buy it. Ken invited him in and the two men went out to the garage to get the vacuum. cleaner. When they returned to the kitchen, our neighbor, who is originally from the country of Colombia, stayed and talked. He told us he loved our house and wished his daughter had seen it before she purchased a new home a month earlier. "I could have her across the street if she'd bought this one," he said. Then he chuckled. "Maybe she wouldn't want to live so close to her parents." In his short visit, we learned a lot about his family.
Only ten minutes after our neighbor left, the doorbell rang again. I answered it this time. A man I'd never seen before said, "I just wanted you to know that I'm the one who took the Nordic Track you put out on the curb." "That's fine,"I told him, "it was there with a Free sign on it." He said he'd like to explain. "I work with the Wounded Warriors program and that exercise machine would be a godsend to a young man I'm helping." By this time, Ken came to the door and the two greeted each other like old friends.
After the man had left, Ken told me he lived down the street and often stopped to talk when Ken was outside doing yard work. "The guy is a retired Army Colonel and he spends a lot of his time working with the Wounded Warrior group."
In the space of less than half an hour, two stories showed up at our door. I could write full creative nonfiction essays about each visitor if I had the time. The point is that you run head-on into stories every day of the week. Writers bemoan the fact that finding story ideas is so hard. It's not hard at all. You can actually trip over story ideas as you go about your daily tasks, answer a phone call, do your shopping or attend a sporting event. The story ideas are there but it's your job to observe with the eyes of a writer. That's key!
Even fiction writers can use an encounter of some kind in a novel or short story. A character in your story can be based on a real person. They're all around you. Listen with a good ear for conversation that intrigues you. Watch for people who have an unusual appearance or a scintillating smile, maybe even a formidable scowl.
The longer you practice being more observant to your surroundings, the easier it becomes. With me, it's now second nature. If you run into a particularly appealing character, write a few paragraphs about him/her and keep in a file on your computer. When you're working on a new story or novel, you'll have a treasure trove of characters to use.