This morning I was listening to the radio, like I do every morning on my way to work. I specifically listen to the station that plays music, and then I switch over to Newstalk at 6am to get a decent news update for the day.
However, this morning on my usual music channel, the hosts were talking to people about the drama in their lives. The subject was – ‘And the dish ran away with the spoon.’ Callers would then ring in, and tell the radio hosts and listeners all around the country of their woes about loved ones running away with others. It was actually very sad! Well. I know that this is a fact of life that many of us face, but still… it made me sad, and I didn’t exactly see it as entertaining at the time.
One of the hosts even suggested sending the info to one of our TV programmes here to use for ideas. And this is when I got to thinking. We, as writers, look for this sort of material all the time to weave into our work as juicy drama fodder and character plots for our readers. But why?
Is it because we want to read about people’s lives and how bad they are to make ourselves feel better? I mean, seriously? People obviously love to hear about it on the radio. To be quite frank, if something like what these people were describing happened to me, there is no freaking way I would be telling the nation on the radio!
Example A – one of the women who rang in said, “My husband ran away with my mother, and left me with a 9 month old, and a 3 years old.” Um. Does anybody else see this as something you would tell the whole nation about? This also poses the question of do the children call their dad, ‘Dad’.. or ‘Grandpa’? (I should probably mention what when I hear something like this - my sick writer’s mind comes out to play.)
But just imagine using that sort of idea for a book. Fast-foward that story about fifteen years, and you could write a book about some screwed up teenager, the bizarre behaviour of their parents and how it wrecked their lives, and their own spiritual journey to discovering themselves despite their past. Completely doable, if that’s your kind of thing. It just goes to show where we can draw inspiration from. And where we probably shouldn’t.
So I can’t say that I agree with advertising all of our random issues all over the radio for everyone to hear… but it does make for some good material to use in our work as writers. Some of the issues will be hard-hitting ones, and others will be just general amusement. I did hear one story the other day that was so completely sick and inappropriate to even say out load on radio, but I was crying with laughter afterwards. It was one of those extremely embarrassing moments in someone’s life. But I would never write it.
So, keep an ear out about people and their lives. (Don’t use it for gossip, because that’s just not a nice thing to do.) You never know what sort of gems you might stumble across, and make sure you note them down. Then when you are plotting your next novel, just have to decide what’s appropriate for the story, and really what is not. Then use it.