I don’t really dislike that question writers seem to get upset about – ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ I suppose the only problem is that it gets repeated so often. But I usually find that it’s genuine – readers are interested in where these things they’ve found so real originate. And anyway, it’s so much better than ‘Should I have heard of you?’. The thing is that there are so many answers to it, all legitimate. Ideas come from everywhere – words, situations, bits in newspapers, chance remarks and, perhaps most of all for me, from pictures. So when the Facebook group, Page Turners, came up with the flash fiction challenge of writing 500 words using various photos as prompts, I couldn’t resist it. Here’s the Bigstock picture and my take on it. I think it shows that writing can be subversive in a very gentle way.
Dennis was baffled. Surely it couldn’t just be because of her friend, Deirdre, the photocopying girl from accounts, telling her about that thing in Hello magazine – the one about bringing exoticism into the dullness of marriage. Okay, fair enough, but what had getting him to wear all this ridiculous stuff have to do with that? Why had she sellotaped a doormat to his chest and insisted that he wear her ridiculous fur hat with real cherries on it? As for the laces around his arms he had no idea what they meant. She’d made him sit in the chair, taken them out of his shoes, bound them bloody tightly into his flesh then made him go out to the shed and fetch that heavy antique sword which she’d found in Mrs Robinson’s junk shop on Acacia Avenue. It was difficult enough carrying the bloody thing without his shoes slopping loosely as he walked.
He looked over his shoulder at her chopping carrots on the kitchen table and singing that Country song she liked so much, the one about the blind orphan who’d been savaged by the stepfamily’s wolfhound. Where was the woman he’d married? The sweet, innocent young girl who liked to crochet and loved him even though he was an accountant. Earlier that afternoon, when she’d made him stick that sword into the overhead beam and superglued his hands to the hilt, it was as if she’d been possessed by some sort of inner beast. And it had hurt like hell when she’d taken that drawing pin from the corkboard in the kitchen and stuck it through his earlobe. He’d humoured her. He always did. But she knew he was supposed to be playing golf with Gerald that afternoon so why was she just calmly chopping carrots?
“Listen Bubbles, honey,” he said. “I really need to get my clubs organised. I’m supposed to be teeing off at 3.30.”
She looked up, her eyes cold, strange.
“There’s not going to be any golf,” she said. “I have other plans for the afternoon.”
“But what about Gerald? … I mean, he’ll be expecting me to…”
“Shut the fuck up,” she said. “If this knife slips and I cut my finger, the next target for it will be your genitals.”
That was scary. Whenever she started using posh words he knew he was in trouble.
It was that bloody 50 shades book again. When she started reading it, he’d thought it was about cats or knitting patterns for cardigans; that’s the sort of thing she usually read, but from the moment she’d…
His thoughts were interrupted as she approached him, still carrying the knife and two carrots.
“Bubbles, please,” he whined.
“Shut it,” she said. “All these years, all that boring missionary sex… Things are about to change. I want real sex. And it starts here.”
He tried to draw his head back as she pushed the points of the two carrots up his nostrils.
“Now,” she said. “Time for some immaculate fornication.”
* * *
Ok, that was just playing for laughs, but you can turn it into a serious point if you want. The same picture (or almost anything else) can carry as many messages, interpretations, ‘realities’ as there are people looking at it. It’s only words that start to pin down ‘meaning’ and even then, they’re so unreliable. Which is one of the many things that makes writing fun.