Michael Haskins

Friday, August 10, 2007

More story ideas or why I drink

If you read an earlier blog, you know my friend Art, one of the managers of the Hog’s Breath Saloon, has decided to write a novel. I think his words were something like, “If you can do it, so can I!” He's discovering it is not as easy as he thought.

“I read you recent blog,” Art said and bought me a Jameson on the rocks. “Insightful,” he nodded and smiled.

I knew there was more to come, so I waited and sipped my Jameson.

“Thank you, Art,” I finally said.

The Carter Brothers, Tim and Danny Carter, were setting up on stage and when they began to play I wanted to listen, so I needed Art to get to what concerned him about writing.

“How’s the novel coming?” I took a sip of whiskey, to keep from smiling too widely.

“I haven’t gotten to the writing, yet,” he mumbled.

“You’re plotting?” I said without looking at him. “Good way to go, for the first one. Get all your ducks in a row.”

“I’m looking for a fresh idea.” He still mumbled. He moved closer. “When you read the newspapers and magazines, what do you look for? I mean, to stimulate your ideas?”

I lit a cigar and turned in my barstool. “Something unusual. Maybe a little quirky.”

“How do you know if it’s unusual or quirky?” He lit a cigarette and sat down.

“Art, you’ve lived here too long,” I finally laughed. “If you find something in the paper that strikes you, a long-time resident of Key West, as unusual or quirky, you can bet your paycheck that the rest of the world will think so too.”

“Okay,” he sighed, and I knew he wanted more. “How do you incorporate it into your story?”

“Maybe you do, maybe you don’t,” I blew thick cigar smoke into the night. “Sometimes I cut it out and file it for a future date.”


“Because later I may remember it and that way I have it to reread.” The Carter Brothers were almost ready to do a sound check. “I don’t trust my memory. I clip newspapers and magazine stories, I take notes of things I hear and people I see.”

“Why?” he frowned.

“Because, if I hear an unusual phrase, I want to save it, to remember it, so I write it down. Or I run into a person with a trait I think a character could have, I write it down.”

“Can you give me an example?” He twisted in his seat.

I looked around the large outdoor bar. It was getting crowded, as show time approached. Across the bar a young women, dressed in black, with dyed black hair, black nail polish and a pierced nose, sat talking to a young guy who dressed like a yuppie. They were talking into each other’s face, but not touching.

“See the couple over there?” I nodded toward the couple. “She’s Gothic and he’s a yuppie, probably on vacation together. I see that and I wonder why? What do they have in common?”

“Sex?” Art suggests.

“That’s a good first guess, but how’d they get to the point of sex?”

Art studied the couple and smoked another cigarette. “They guy’s sister is married with kids and she was the baby sitter.” He spoke quickly and smiled when he’d finished.

“Good, Art. And maybe at home he’s ashamed to be seen with her, so they’ve escaped to Key West.”

“Yeah,” Art agreed. “And they want to make a life together here.”

“But, you’re forgetting something, Art.”


“This is a mystery novel, so there has to be some mystery. A murder or a robbery or both.”

“Maybe to get the money to move here they committed a robbery and someone was killed?”

“That’s workable,” I told him and finished my drink, hoping he’d buy me another before the band started.

“I think it could be a short story,” he said, as he removed a small notebook and pen from his shirt pocket. “I need to get this down,” he said and began writing in the notebook.

I ordered a fresh drink from Frank and when I turned around Art was walking away, muttering to himself. It might have been dialogue and he wanted to hear how it sounded.

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