People really should be careful how act in public. Of how they treat people. Of what they say to others. We are watching. The writers all over the world need to tell a story, and if people aren’t careful–it just might wind up being theirs. There is nothing that a writer loves more than to have material dropped in their lap with little effort. Many writers I know get their ideas for stories or characters by eavesdropping on other people’s conversations in line, at the store and during lunch.
Just the other day, I overheard a woman talking to her son as he tried to eat lunch. “You could have caught that fly ball, you know,” she snarled. His eyes drifted out the window, as if trying to escape to the street outside. “Hey,” she snapped, tugging soundly at his arm, “are you listening to me mister?” She was caught in the act and didn’t even know that someone else was watching this ugly scene.
And now you are reading about her. Just like that.
Writers like to defend an innocent, champion a cause or correct an injustice. Those that are involved in something nasty or like taking things out on someone had best think twice. We are listening. That rude waiter, evil school teacher or boorish party guest is fodder for our villains, and sometimes those real-life jerks and snobs end up being translated wholesale into the story. (With names changed of course!)
It’s not just the buffoons in life that end up making the cut. Stephen King relates a true story in his book Danse Macabre about a boy who was afraid of the dark because of a big bad monster called the ‘Green Ripper’. It turns out he overheard some adults talking about the Grim Reaper. King’s friend Author John MacDonald, who was privy to the Green Ripper moment, later turned the incident into a book by the same name. As writers, we do hold just a little bit of power. Although we might not be able to give justice to the little boy being picked on by his big, bad mommy–we can at least point out the fact that these behaviors are not things we admire. And that feels really, really good.