Let's talk about the genesis of ideas. I've mentioned my Imagination File where I stash things ripped from newspapers, etc. Thinking about these clippings made me think about the fact that a lot of people today don't read anything if it's not online. I still subscribe to the Houston Chronicle and read it every morning. I also scan the free small community papers tossed in my yard on a regular basis. Why? Because all these newspapers are a source of great ideas. You'll find articles that you won't see online.
The online publications mainly cover broad topics of general interest to a worldwide audience. Now, there's nothing wrong with this kind of coverage, but you won't find on kind of stories on the Yahoo or MSN home pages that tickle your imagination.
When I read local papers, I'm always reminded of an old television show my dad liked. The name of this police drama was The Naked City. (Of course, in the South everyone called it the Nekkid City.). The salacious, at that time, name isn't what I remember most. It was the voice over tagline: There are 8 million stories in the naked city.
Where do you uncover these stories? One place is the local newspaper.
8 Million Stories
Here are some of the 8 million stories I've clipped over the years that sparked my imagination for one reason or another.
From the Franklin Sun, the small weekly paper from the parish where my mom lives: An old, apparently used at some point, coffin was found in an abandoned house that was being torn down.
From a Sugar Land paper: First African American principal honored. Billy J. Baines, now 77, has been honored by the Fort Bend Independent School District by having a new middle school named for him.
From Houston Chronicle: Robert Dale Howell put to death. He's the 18th inmate to die at Huntsville. He was 50; no public campaign was ever waged on his behalf to save him. (Apparently all the abolish death penalty groups aren't impartial in their support. They seem to go for the high-profile cases, and this guy had no PR at all attached to him at trial or afterward. He had killed before and got away with it. Apparently, the only reason his defense could come up with for why he should escape the needle for having killed his crack dealers in a crack house was that "yes, he killed them, but he didn't rob them afterward.")
From Houston Chronicle: Work crew finds skull near terminal site. Anthropologist called in. (Interesting. This was in an area that is now Port of Houston property on a dead end road. There was a serial killer working the area just to the west and south of there. Several bodies were found in League City from the 1980s on. No one was ever arrested. I remember reading about all those unidentified bodies they found in the field near League City and wondering why no reference was ever made to a serial killer. Finally, about twenty years later, there was a big splash in the Houston Chronicle about serial killers working the Texas area, and it was mentioned.)
From Bingo Gossip, a counter-top newspaper picked up at a BBQ joint in Luling, TX. Paraphrased letter to the advice columnist Nosy reads: Dear Nosy, My husband and I are newlyweds married 3 months ago when I found out I was pregnant. I met him after he'd broken up with his girlfriend who is also pregnant. She's getting ready to have her baby. He wants to borrow money from me to go spend 2 weeks with her. I understand he doesn't want to miss the birth of his child because he missed the first one when he was in jail. I love him but I feel uncertain about all this. What should I do?
You won't find material like that on the Yahoo's News! I can think of several articles that could be written as a result of the letter above not to mention some sweet ideas for a murder mystery or a chick lit or women's fiction where the poor girl grows a brain and realizes her potential. Or a nonfiction book about the poor choices women with low self-esteem make in trying to feel loved.
Increase the breadth of your inspiration and your knowledge of human nature by reading print publications, especially local ones, in addition to online news.