To be a writer, you need a good imagination and you need to be very observant. Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? You need to be the sort of person who’ll overhear a snippet of conversation in a queue for the bus and think, “That would make a great plot line”. The sort of person who’ll observe a trait in a friend or stranger and think, “I could exaggerate that and create a wonderfully eccentric character.” The sort of person who reads a news headline and suddenly an idea for a novel is born. The sort of person who constantly thinks “what if …?” Yes, all wonderful traits for a writer.
But what happens when the writer’s imagination spills over into everyday life?
Last week, I was in my office writing. Darkness had fallen. The munchkin was in bed asleep and hubby had gone out to take some sunset photos an hour or so away so would be back late. I happened to glance out of my office window and did a double-take as a large orange flame danced into the air. Eek! FIRE!!! We live at the top of our street so our house backs onto the side of the one behind it and all I could see were bright flames in their garden. On a windy night. Close to their property. Cue writer’s imagination …
Scenario A: They’ve gone out for the evening (the house was in darkness as far as I could see) and a fire has somehow accidentally started on their patio which is going to consume their house and, because it’s a windy night, overcome ours too
Scenario B: They’ve gone out for the evening having deliberately started a fire in their back garden because they’re very angry with the landlord for putting the property up for let again when they haven’t lived there for a full year yet and now they have to re-house their family of 4 children, 1 grandchild and a dog at considerable expense and inconvenience. If they can’t have the property, nobody can. Mwah ha ha ha ha!!!!!
A normal person would have just nipped round the corner to check out the source of the flames. But cue more scenarios …
Scenario C: I leave the property but the munchkin (aged 7) chooses that moment to wake up. Finding the office empty, she calls out for me but there’s no answer. Feeling afraid, she comes looking for me and trips over one of our cats (who can smell the smoke and sense the danger so are getting frantic), falls down the stairs and smashes her head on the tiles in the hall
Scenario D: The fire has been started deliberately (scenario B) and the neighbours are loitering with intent to make sure it really does take hold. They see me peeking over the fence and take me hostage. The fire does take hold of their property and ours and I can’t get to the munchkin and the cats to rescue them
So I called the fire brigade. I apologised profusely explaining it may be nothing but I could see no lights in the house, it was windy, it was close to the property and I couldn’t leave my young daughter to investigate. The nice 999-lady was very understanding and said she’d send someone out to investigate. Problem was, I didn’t know the number of the house. It’s not on our street so I just told them it was the last house before the turn-off into my road then stood by the window and watched.
I watched as a light came on in the kitchen of the property behind, indicating that people were definitely home (scenarios B and D foiled).
I watched as the enormous flames decreased to something … well … not quite so enormous.
The fire engine arrived. The fire engine went straight past. Crap. I had to leave the property after all to flag them down as they trawled back up the estate. Embarrassingly, the young men in uniform had all piled out and were checking properties. I think they could have done with turning on their hoses on and directing them at my cheeks which were seriously on fire at the realisation that I’d called them out to a big fat nothing!
Directed by me, the firefighters and fire engine moved next-door and I watched them out of the office window with the lights out so they couldn’t see me (I told you I was embarrassed). They looked over the back gate of the property then knocked on the door. Within seconds, they were back in the engine and driving off. I returned to my Mac, head hung in shame.
Hubby came home later. “Oh, they’ve got a brazier,” he said. “They often light it.” Great. Wish I’d known that. Wish he’d been in to tell me. Wish I’d paid more attention to the neighbours. What was I saying about writers being observant? Might need to tone down the imagination in future and work on the observation skills.
I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever let your imagination run completely wild?