I’ve posted plenty on the topic of recognising the germ of a good idea. This might have left you thinking, well, that’s good and all, but gimme an example. Here’s an example. Since about 2014, people worldwide have reported clown-sightings at night. That’s right, fuc*ing clowns. I hate clowns. This would freak the living shit out of me. Now we’re hearing about clowns actually trying to lure children into the woods in the US, in particular, Greenwood County in South Carolina, where local residents of a particular housing complex are so besieged by these creepy mofos that they have been issued with the following warning:
Cynics suggest it’s just a viral advertising gimmick for some upcoming evil-clown-themed horror movie. Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe there are people out there who dress up as clowns and walk around at night, staring out at people from lonely dark places. Great seed for a story. Coulrophobia (fear of clowns) is widespread, ancient and deep-seated. The reasons are obvious, and the story-potential is wide, so long as you avoid anything remotely Pennywise. I’d rather see a story tracking back to the origin of clowns in medieval times, exploring a link with something terrifyingly evil. Because all clowns are the epitome of evil, let’s face it. Kids know it, adults just pretend they aren’t scared.
For this very reason, I won’t be writing any clown-themed fiction just yet. I’m not ready, because the things that scared me as a child scare me yet. I haven’t learned to suspend my imagination. Plus, doing what I do for a living, I get to see some of the crazy stuff seemingly rational human beings get up to.
Another example: I once went to a lonely house in the dead of night because, and I quote, the old lady living there rang in hysterics claiming “there’s a werewolf outside”. So when we get there, joking how we should’ve dropped by the armoury for some silver bullets, there’s this blood-curdling scream from inside when we knock on the front door. After we identify ourselves, she lets us in, and we find ourselves in this tiny decrepit house with planks of wood nailed across the windows, and every inch of every wall in every room covered in hand-scrawled biblical quotes. She’s hung crucifixes and crosses over every window and doorway (fifteen years later, I stole that for my book). This woman was not scared, she was terrified.
Werewolf? Right, my partner and I share a knowing smile and a nod, ‘Maybe we’ll take you down to the hospital for the night, there’s nothing scary down at the hospital, and the nice nurse can give you something to settle your nerves and help you slee–
–Fuc*ing, like, something growls at the window.
Now, credit me with ‘hey idiot, no silver bullets remember?’ foolhardiness or absolute ‘you must have balls-of-steel’ bravery, but I am out of my seat and through the front door, over the side gate and into the back yard in eight seconds, pressing the barrel of my S&W into the side of some fat guy’s head. I say, fat guy, because this pudding in track pants is literally wetting himself on hand and knee, blubbering as he peels off his sweaty rubber werewolf mask. What the fu*k are you playing at, may have been my words to him. His reply? ‘I live here. My wife gets me to dress up and scare her before we have sex.”
Story ideas. You’ll never know when they’re about to happen. Just grab them.
Now get to work.