Tuesday, April 15, 2014


When it comes to writing, possibilities are all around us, and they not only can provide inspiration for our next masterpiece, they can be a potent remedy for Writer’s Block.  Every day, events both large and small happen in our lives, and they potentially contain our next story or novel.  Not only that, they contain seeds which can blossom in many different directions.

Here’s an example from my own experience.  A few days ago, I went in for plastic surgery to remove three lesions on my head.  It was painful.  After the surgeon cut around the lesions, he gave me shots with a tiny needle to numb them for removal.  As I lay there, occasionally joking with him, it occurred to me that there just might be a story in this.  What if I got up from the table, looked in the mirror, and found I had a new face?  Perhaps I’d leave the office to discover I’d lost my public identity.  No one recognized me anymore, and that included my wife, my kids, the people at work, my employer, and so on.  Imagine trying to earn a paycheck under these conditions, or getting amorous with my wife when I looked like someone else.

Can you guess what tabloids or the Internet would make of this?  PLASTIC SURGEON ACCIDENTALLY GIVES MAN A NEW FACE!  Use your imagination and create your own banner headlines.

But this is ridiculous, right?  For Pete’s sake, I only went in to remove a few lesions.  Still, in the realm of the imagination, anything is possible.

Here’s another possibility: I gazed in the mirror and saw my new face, but no one else did.  To the world at large, I looked exactly the same.  In fact, even when I was photographed, I looked like the John of old.  But not to me.  To Yours Truly, I appeared to be someone completely different, perhaps even a . . . woman.

Hmm . . . that may be going too far.  Still, can you imagine the interesting complications it would create in my life, the fascinating fictional twists I could give it?  Please ponder the possibilities. Maybe you’re a realistic writer and have no tolerance for full-blown fantasy.  Very well.  Let’s make the plastic surgeon an attractive woman, and when our eyes meet, we have an instant connection.  At first I think it’s romance and that I’ve found a lifelong soul mate, but later I discover the surgeon’s my daughter from a casual one-night stand thirty years ago.  And woe for me, she wants revenge for never having a father.

No, scratch that last sentence.  It’s too bizarre.

Let’s tack in another direction.  Science-fiction, perhaps.  Or horror.  My plastic surgeon is a mad scientist, or at least a man who finally can’t resist the temptation to try a new, untested procedure.  So Dr. Jekyll injects my cheek with a mysterious solution, and in the days to come, I gradually transform into an evil, physically grotesque creature.  Or perhaps I change into a divinely beautiful one, so exquisite I can no longer live among people.  Or perhaps . . .

By now, you should get the idea.  If you’re a writer, possibilities surround you 24/7 and enrich your life even though they may wear prosaic clothes.  They’re as close and imminent as your next visit to a drugstore or visit to the dentist, even as close as your next sneeze or broken shoelace.  Keep a creative eye open for them, folks, and you just might have your next (prize-winning?) story.

(Revised and published previously in www.storytellersunplugged.com, April 13, 2009.)


  1. I enjoyed your post. Your tale of a romance with the plastic surgeon turned lover turned long-lost vengeful daughter made me chuckle...thought about writing for the soaps? Lol! Seriously, the possibilities are endless. And, being a fan of both fantasy and sci-fi, I was intrigued by your theorizing on the what-ifs involved with a changing face...even a face only you realize has changed. After all, if you're not the person other people see...are the people you see really the people you're looking at? Mind-bender. Could be fun.

  2. The only problem I find with possibilities is that they can get in the way of a story sometimes, tempting me to go off in every possible direction after I've committed to an idea.

  3. Anna, you come up with a great new possibility at the end! A real mind-bender indeed. And what if you have an objective outside observer, say an alien, or an AI. What would he, she, or it see? Hmmmm. Stu, you have a point. Too many possibilities can lead to chaos. For example, you might be able to conceive of five great endings for a story, or two or three, but usually, you can only pick one. Unless it's an interactive story perhaps.