You sit at the computer, compelled to write something, but what? Nothing comes. Your brain is fudge, your fingers tap your thighs. It’s futile. You stare at the topic again (Two People Leaving a Building). Maybe it will reveal a secret code, just to you, something downright wild and inventive, that’ll explode on the page…or fizzle out before even firing.
There are only 3 types of stories – you read this recently – those that are mostly about plot, where you jump right into the action; those dealing more with character and relationships; and stories that are mostly about ideas.
Maybe you could try each of them out, see what comes up; you’ve got nothing to lose.
Firstly, plot. Jump straight in.
The blast splits the night sky. Flames spout up, geyser-like, searching the air, the roar deafening. Metal creaks and twists, walls collapse like a house of cards, fickle against the onslaught. Thick black smoke chokes the building.
No one sees the two figures leaving seconds before.
3 am on a Tuesday morning; that quiet, still, pre-dawn when time seems suspended. A fire engine speeds past the police vehicle, the familiar siren forging into the distance. Joe Mitsos’ truck is first on the scene. Two minutes it took him to be out the door, clothed and ready. He zips up the rest of his fire suit, fits his helmet and plugs his broad fingers into his gloves.
‘What was this place? A tyre factory or something?’ Joe’s partner yells above the noise as they roll out the hose.
‘Yeah, smells like it. The other brigades better arrive pronto, so we can get out of here before the fumes do us in.’
The police park well back from the inferno.
‘Suspicious, do you reckon, Sarge?’
Constable Patterson is new to the Station. He reminds Sergeant Palmer of a pup, too eager. ‘We’ll know more when we can take a look.’ He cautions. Sweat from the heat glistens on their foreheads.
The second fire crew rumbles to a halt. ‘Beat us again, Mitzos. No doubt about you!’ The captain shakes his head. ‘We’ll try and get round the back, hit it from that side. Bloody lucky there’s no wind.’
As if to curse him, a huge ball of flame soars up, creating its own momentum, sucking up the air before dropping embers around them.
Ready for a crack at the second type: characters?
Joe Mitzos taps on the police car window. Sgt Palmer winds it down.
‘Safe for you boys to go take a look now. You wearing decent shoes? Ground’s still hot.’ Mitzos looks back at the smouldering remains. Light has started to creep up from the horizon.
‘Thanks, Joe. Great job.’
Joe acknowledges him with a satisfied smile and climbs back onto the truck. He’d received a commendation from the State Commissioner only last year for his 25 years of service. Always first to arrive. His smile steady on his face, he backs the truck away.
Sgt Palmer rummages in the glove box for a mask. Can’t be too careful; who knows what bugs have been released by the burning rubber. He offers one to Patterson. The constable waves it away. ‘No need for heroics, Patterson, put it on. Here, you do it my way.’
Debris crunches underfoot as they pass what used to be puny attempts with a few straggly shrubs to beautify the place.
Patterson strides on in front. Always got to be ahead of everyone, Palmer thinks. Well, he’ll learn sooner or later. Taking your time, not missing anything is the way to get results. The boy reminds him of Joe Mitzos, that arrogant eagerness to stand out.
At the rear of the yard Patterson kicks at the tangled grass. There’d been no attempt to beatify here. On patrol with Palmer he feels like he’s back in school. Why can’t Palmer let him make his own decisions?
‘Hey, boss!’ Patterson yells. ‘Over here, I think I’ve got something!’ A glint of blue cloth. He bends down and picks it up. A cap. He turns it over and rubs the soot off. On the front are embossed the words, ‘Stone Age Warriors’. He holds it out to Palmer.
Palmer sighs, ‘I think I know who that belongs to. And that someone’s got some explaining to do.’
This might be a good time to start on the third type: ideas
Back at the depot Joe Mitzos finishes hosing down the truck and heads home. 10 am; he has the rest of the day clear for his other job. Creating pieces of furniture out of beautiful timbers always seems to him the perfect antithesis to being a firey.
‘Hullo, anyone home?’ His wife’s at work already and 2 of his sons at school. Walking past one of the bedrooms, he sees the mound of his middle son, Nick, under the doona, the heavy drum beat of ‘Stone Age Warriors’ barely muffled by his earphones. Joe’s mouth and throat tense up. He can feel his neck heavy on his shoulders. Nick’s been doing this half the year, lying around in bed all day. At 15 he couldn’t be convinced to stay on at school. Joe insisted he get a job, but no-one wanted a kid who didn’t seem to care. Joe couldn’t fathom it. Nick had grown up in a regular, hard-working household and Joe believed a bit of hard work would soon fix him. Every time he saw him lying there just kicked him in the guts. He had to resist grabbing the boy and beating some sense into him. Where had things gone wrong?
His phone rings. He hesitates before answering it; he’d rather go straight to the workshop and get started. ‘Joe, this is Sgt Palmer, we need to see you and your boy, Nick, down at the station as soon as you can get here.’
So, you’ve managed to write a 1000 words. Sure it’s rough and you’ll probably ditch some of it, but you’ve got the start of a story, characters and some tension to keep it going.