Tuesday September 13, 2005
If I knew where stories come from, and how, I’d probably go back into business and market the method.
But I don’t.
Something I do know is that, if you want to write stories, you have to keep an open mind and, most important, keep on learning.
When, the other day, I spoke of being stuck without an idea for a writing group challenge, two comments struck me as good ways of stimulating a story. First: “Why not write about those bunnies in your backyard?” And then: “Bob Dylan used photographs to jump start his creative process.”
All I did was to note them as good ideas, and go back to house cleaning. Then, this morning, I happened upon a photograph I took a while back of one of the baby rabbits running in the back garden, filed it up on Flickr, and sat back to look at it. Out popped a story, easy as shelling peas:
A clash of clover
“I’m not sure there’s anything I really want,” I said.
“That’s the easiest kind of wish to grant,” said the senior of the three baby rabbits who were sitting in a neat row in the garden.
“We don’t offer a wish to everyone, you know,” piped up the middle-sized one. “There must be something you want.”
“That’s right,” said the tiny one. “Just a little something.”
“You be quiet, small fry,” said the senior, taking charge. “You’re here to learn, not to speak. Give the man a chance to think.”
It was a double-edged problem for me. Firstly, I truly don’t have much to wish for. And then there’s the problem of actually believing that I was there in the early morning, chatting to three baby rabbits. When you live alone for a stretch, and are inclined to nap in your chair when things get extra quiet, dreams and reality do tend to blur at the edges. And I do have the most vivid dreams sometimes.
“I don’t suppose you could see your way to granting me eternal youth, could you?”
“That’d be nice but, no, sorry, we can’t turn the clock back. We’re only rabbits, after all. We could do you a nice job in eternal age if you like”
“No thanks. That’s not a pleasing prospect.”
“See. I told you he was a sensible bloke,” said the little one. “He’d not be nice to us rabbits if he wasn’t sensible.”
“Give ‘im a clout for me,” the senior rabbit said to the middle one. “You’re closest.”
“Oh, don’t do that,” I said as a thorough drubbing threatened. “He’s very young and he’s doing his best.”
“Hmmph. Well, alright. Made your mind up yet?”
“Not quite. Would it be possible for me to spend a day with you lot, seeing what it’s like to be a rabbit? I wouldn’t mind spending my wish on that.”
“You’re not doing very well with this, are you? Sure, we could make you into a rabbit for a day but we can’t do anything about the size thing and you’d never fit down our warren.”
“Ah. There’s always a snag with wishes, isn’t there?”
“Not always. Just often. That’s why we told you to be careful.”
A long silence followed during which the little one took a nibble at a clover blossom when he thought no-one was watching, only to get a mild kick for his audacity, along with a stern reminder that it’s necessary to concentrate when you’re granting wishes.
I looked up from the rabbits to the hedge, where the dawn chorus was just coughing into action. The light mist of early morning was rolling back, leaving a heavy dew on the well-grazed grass in the paddock. It was the most perfect of mornings.
“OK,” I said. “I’ve made up my mind.”
“Go on, then.”
“I wish that, so long as I live, I shall have a nice, safe garden. The kind that rabbits like to visit.”
“Is that all? No pot of gold? No bottomless pitcher of vintage wine?”
“No. Just a nice garden, please.”
“Yes. I’m sure.”
“Good choice. Right. You ready, guys?”
All three of the little fellas twitched their noses. There came a slight twisty-looking shimmer in the air and the faintest tinkle of something like a tiny bell, just on the very edge of my hearing.
“There you are,” said the senior rabbit. “All done.”
“Is that it, then?”
“Why, what did you expect? A Clash of Cymbals?”
“No, I suppose not.”
“Well, there you are, then. You got your garden. Enjoy.”
“Don’t mention it.”
And the three slightly magical rabbits reverted to type and wandered off at random, clipping a few clover blossoms from my lawn as they went, leaving me to enjoy my garden, and to look forward to the next visit from a wild creature who, like me, feels happy and safe in a nice quiet garden.