story ideas

it’s a really good idea to keep a notebook of story ideas. Bits of conversations you overhear that strike your imagination, newspaper stories, a photo from a magazine. I have tons of these kinds of prompts. Here’s one:

UPLAND, Calif. (AP) — When Maria Blackburn opened the contents of an abandoned storage unit she bought at auction, she found wedding pictures, champagne glasses and the body of the groom. … Darlene Bourk, 31, pleaded innocent to killing Robert Bourk, the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office said Thursday. Investigators believe he died in December 1996 when he was 27. It was unclear when the couple married. Upland police Lt. Ed Gray wouldn’t elaborate on the events that led to Bourk’s death or say how he died, but he said Bourk would have remained listed as missing had his wife not …

failed to pay the Stor-King self-storage facility in Upland, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. After two missed $25 payments, Stor-King auctioned off the unit, and Mrs. Blackburn paid $20 for its contents, which she planned to use to stock a thrift store in Los Angeles. As she began opening the 20 to 30 boxes in the unit, she pulled out wedding photos, champagne glasses and then bloodstained clothing. In a carefully wrapped wardrobe box, stuffed with two tarps, a blanket and a layer of thick roofing plastic, she found Bourk’s body. Stor-King manager Susie Gonzalez said Mrs. Bourk called in a panic after receiving notice her belongings had been sold. She left two notes on the storage unit, saying she’d “give anything, anything to get the storage back,” Mrs. Blackburn told The Press Enterprise of Riverside. Police arrested Mrs. Bourk on Sept. 15, the day after the auction, in nearby San Dimas where she lives. Although most of the contents of the storage unit were taken by police as evidence, Mrs. Blackburn said she was able to keep some of the items, including wedding pictures of a smiling Bourk. “He looked like a nice, handsome man,” she said. She said she plans to send them to Bourk’s mother.

So here’s the thing: if you look at a traditional story arc (ala Cinderella, below), you have some choices here. Where does the story really start? Who are the main characters in conflict? What does each of them want? Does Susie Gonzalez (a great name, by the way) have a real role to play here? You could take this in a dozen different directions, from a dozen different points of view.

Every once in a while I’ll post one of these bits I collect that I call story-prompts.