Whatchagot Stew

Happy Memorial Day all the SEers in the USA, and welcome to everyone else out there too. Many of you will be celebrating with a pot luck get together, a slumgullion, or whatchagot stew of some kind.

Story Empire tries to bring you writing tips and tricks however we can, and my well is running a bit dry currently. So I’ve designed my own whatchagot stew in the form of this post.

Whatchagot stew

First, ideas can come from anywhere. Keep an open mind, and you’ll notice all kinds of things. This is the urinal at one of my favorite pizza and beer places.

Alsco, huh. Add an I and Alisco is kind of a cool name for a character. It’s just that simple, and you will notice all kinds of things in everyday life. Let’s talk about Alisco, and keep in mind, I’m free writing this. After you read it, I’ll pick it apart for some tips.


Alisco looked up from her cubicle. One tiny sliver of Sidney Harbor caught her eye between the buildings. A first floor cubicle was all an intern rated. Six hours minimum per day, and on call after that. It was the only way to break into the field of her dreams. While the internship didn’t pay, cleaning hotel rooms did, and she’d have another eight hours of that after leaving the office.

She made her way to the ladies room, and found an empty stall. If only she could clear this internship, she had a real chance of landing a paying position.

When she finished her business, the toilet paper roll was empty. She removed the empty tube to place in the garbage out front, and grabbed a fresh roll from the basket.

The glue at the edge was thicker than usual. She picked at it with her chipped nail, but it only came loose in tatters. Eventually she got the roll to unwind, and turned it so the paper would come off over the top.

When she pushed the holder inside one end, a deadly funnelweb spider came out the other. It stepped onto her hand, and scurried inside her sleeve.


Okay, a very short section, but there are some things to glean from it.

First, and you can argue this with me because it isn’t currently PC, but women and children make more sympathetic victims. It’s a subconscious thing, but it’s in our makeup.

I used Alisco, as part of my whatchagot stew, but a youthful name from the popular babies list would help sell it. Alisco has kind of an exotic ring to it, and with more time, I might have made her an immigrant. Distance from family would highlight her struggles.

We know this takes place in Australia in the second sentence. Check that off the list.

We also like characters who struggle and try. Alisco is involved in one of the most nefarious situations I know of, an unpaid internship. She has to eat, so she cleans hotel rooms after hours. This is sympathetic, and readers will appreciate her putting in the effort. They’ll stand behind her.

I also isolated her on purpose. She’s only in the powder room, but it’s still a small bit of isolation.

Then there is a bit of distraction. This is designed to suck readers into the story. Everyone out there has dealt with a roll of TP that just won’t unwind. It comes off in strips until you tear off a big chunk and force it into submission. We’ve all done this, so we can all relate. Again, ideas can come from everywhere. I seem to be on a bit of a potty kick right now, but that’s okay. The photo above is probably why I wound up placing Alisco in the restroom in the first place.

Since Alisco is a girl, I made sure she planned on throwing away the cardboard tube, and was concerned about how the roll went on the holder. A man might have left the tube where it was and just used a roll from the basket.

So we’re all behind Alisco, we have some common ground, and we sympathize with her position. That’s when the spider shows up.

I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find a free picture of a Sidney Funnelweb Spider, but you get the idea. If we turned this into a story, we wouldn’t have a picture anyway. The funnelweb is deadly, and it isn’t like she can shake it off her hand. It ran up her sleeve, which poses a real problem.

That’s where I dropped the tale, but look how much there already is. As an author you can play with the subconscious too. Choose your victims for the most impact. Make them someone to cheer for. Distract using everyday situations. If the story or situation is scary, isolation is your friend.

In a way, it all goes back to the old rule about stories: You need a person, in a place, with a problem. With a little planning, you can do a lot more than that.

So let me hear from you. Whatchagot to throw in this stew?

33 thoughts on “Whatchagot Stew

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  4. I love this. It is such a good example of how we can take inspiration from most anything. I’m still focused on the spider. Of course, I don’t know if it is deadly or harmless, but the fact she doesn’t know it’s there makes me shiver. Great take-off!


  5. Your urinal picture cracked me up. In Spanish, we have a word that is pronounced ASCO. I don’t know if it’s slang or a real word (my Spanish is limited), but it means disgusting. All I could think about is some guy using that urinal, seeing the brand Alsco, and using that association to come up with the Spanish word for disgusting. LOL! Thanks for the early morning chuckle. Oh, and great post! I, too, believe that ideas can come from everyday places if you are willing to look upon your surroundings with new lenses. But I’m with Mae… it’s a cauldron for me. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m with Staci on the photo, LOL, but what you managed to glean from it is clever.

    Why am I picturing a huge bubbling cauldron and a massive wooden spoon 🙂

    I like dipping into the idea cauldron, swirling plot and characters around, then dumping them into a bowl (setting) and seeing what sticks–and what needs to go back into the pot. I’m working brewing a few story ideas right now. A few are bubbling to the surface but still need more seasoning and cooking time.

    This was a fun post 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:

    I’ve been using topics from conversations to fuel some writing lately. People start talking to me and I either get ideas from it or they suggest I use something so I go with it. How’s that for adding to the stew? What are your thoughts?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Story ideas are everywhere if we’d only take time to look. There’s a great quote by Orson Scott Card about most people walking by them without noticing. I’ve been inspired by observations in restaurants, buildings or other structures seen while driving, overheard conversations. With a little imagination, the possibilities are endless.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not a huge believer in talent, because it tends to kill productivity. We see it as a line in the sand we cannot cross. I believe in hard work, and that I can get better with effort. Appreciate the compliment though, and thanks for sharing the post.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Talent is a misunderstood word. Most people use it to describe anything we become good at, inferring that this is something we were born with, when in reality, it took a very long time!

        Liked by 1 person

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