Finding Extra in the Ordinary

carMy friend, Kevin, took this shot on a recent business trip to New York. I asked him to find me some “writing shots” and this was one of those he came back with–along with a picture of the world’s largest eraser. (Oh, NYC, you have everything, don’t you?)

When I looked at the pictures, this was my least favorite at first. Our thread went something like this.

K: What was your favorite?

Me: The sparkly light ones. The one from the car makes me sad.

K: Funny. That’s my favorite. More like melancholy.

Me: Hmmm.

K: Like what’s this girl thinking? What’s she waiting for–her n’er do well brother who’s late again to pick her up? Did she lose her keys?

And then it occurred to me I hadn’t had my writing head screwed on at the moment I looked at that shot. As writers, we need to be close observers of the ordinary–to see the quirky spins on things, the emotions spitting from a captured image that passers-by don’t take time to notice. We need to look closely, to see the story behind the moment. After all,┬ámuch of writing happens in the pre-writing.

I know this most of the time. My family and I have played this game in restaurants over the years where we complete the story lines of fellow diners. (Beware if we see you in a Red Lobster. It could be you.) We talk about the relationship of the people, where they come from, their jobs, their hopes and dreams, their scandal du jour. Imagination game #134.

We need more of that. Imagination. Seeing the extraordinary.

So, then, why do you think this girl is sitting here?