A colleague retired the other day after 37 years in the job. More than a hundred people turned up for his farewell dinner. About three for every year of service, if you want to measure it like that. It occurred to me that a different kind of man (perhaps a side of him we’ve never seen) might measure the years differently, and could put the gathering to another use — a little ricin in the risotto perhaps — and when we all begin to buckle and heave, he takes to the podium and recites a litany of snubs, slurs and slights we’ve committed against him across the course of his service.
The revenge motive. The scenario has enough meat on it for a decent short story, albeit a little two-dimensional and lacking any shock value. A dish best served cold, albeit in this case warm, with a side of spring salad and a dryish prosecco. I prefer a racy sancerre, but, you know, meh.
This is my response to the reaction you sometimes get from others upon hearing you’ve actually written a book: “I always wanted to be a writer, I have all these good ideas!” As if ideas are nuggets of some rare ore unearthed by the select few. I think bookworthy ideas are like a hailstorm, and the only real talent lies in identifying those worth snatching up and chucking in the freezer before they melt away. They are everywhere, all the time, so how do you recognize the ones worth keeping?
For me, they are a little colder than the others. You pick them up and they are heavier than expected, or malformed in a way that suggests there’s something trapped inside, as if their birth in the stratosphere was an agony. I know this helps you not at all, but that’s the point: idea selection is a purely subjective exercise, and if you approach it with a “what will be commercially viable” mindset then you’ll just end up with a cold, wet handful of dull grey ice.
The idea has to be interesting to ME or I won’t want to strap on my boots and start down the hard, lonely road. You’ll know when it’s time to walk the talk. It’s like the King once said, a little less conversation…
Thanks for reading my second post. I finished ‘Baby Teeth’ and enjoyed it a lot — at least as many toothy incisors as there were carious molars — there’s a link in my first post. What am I reading now? I’m revisiting a couple of classics, because you never get sick of good writing: