Where does inspiration come from?

Inspiration for stories can come from almost anywhere. Sometimes, even when you don’t think the subject matter in question is for your stories.

This past weekend I attended the year-end workshop of our local Romance Writers group. It was amazing. I can’t thank the executive enough for arranging the day.

When I looked at the agenda I wasn’t sure if I would use anything I was going to learn in my stories but being a curious sort, like most writers are, I was eager to attend and learn new things. I loaded my purse with a pen and a writing tablet and headed to meet the group.

First on the agenda was the K-9. We listened to one of the handlers from our local police department talk about how his dog and the other K-9 officers work. He gave us a hand-out which will come in handy for those writers who wish to write a scene with a K-9 unit featured. I didn’t think that was me but the wheels started churning while I sat in the bleachers at the training field listening. I may not have a tracking dog in my story but other ideas were prompted by what was said, and what I watched. After a question and answer period with the handler we then got to witness the dog work. Even with all of us standing around and talking, he remained focused on the task he was there to do. He was certainly well trained and understood his role.

We shared some laughs and learned a lot about the process of tracking. The handler said most of his calls were for tracking people, and most of those were not criminals. They get a lot of missing persons calls.

The dog we watched is trained to track and is also a drug dog. Some dogs have other duties, such as bomb detection and finding cadavers. Just as our session with the handler was ending he was called to work a crime scene including drugs. He was on duty and duty called.

Next on our list was to visit the Forensic Laboratory in our city. This lab is responsible for all the autopsies for accidents victims, homicides, suicides, and sudden deaths with no previous medical history.

We toured the autopsy suite. It was quite the eye-opening experience. For the most part people do not want to think about what goes on there, but we all have our own ideas, some of which are not right. The forensic pathologist and the nurse that works with her were informative and they were wonderful at explaining things without making it off-putting. Think of the challenging job they have – trying to discover the exact cause of death, when the person cannot speak for themselves. Their compassion for others and the passion for their jobs certainly came through and they were more than willing to share their expertise with us.

We saw the equipment used and were able to ask questions about different things we saw. The pathologist also explained the law that governs them and how they meticulously keep data to ensure their files are the best they can be should they have to appear in court. Lots of ideas for scenes in a story started circling in my imagination.

The last stop on the tour was at a local fire-station. We were shown around the building and told what a normal day in the life of a firefighter at that station would be. Although people like to joke about the fact they are always cooking, they do spend 24 hours on shift and they need to eat. Hey wait, there wasn’t a batch of cookies waiting for us.

They may have a quiet shift, but that does not mean they just sit around all day watching TV. There are lots of chores that each station is tasked with and must be completed by the end of the shift. Fires are not their only hazard. The station we attended also has the hazardous materials van and team. Fighting fires is dangerous work, but some of the chemicals they come in contact with today can be even more hazardous to their lives.

We saw the equipment on each of the trucks and were told what their use was. The latest tool in their arsenal is the drone. They have firefighters that are certified pilots to fly them. We were shown how one works and as a bonus they took our group picture with it.

The platoon of firefighters we met were all interested in talking with our group. Each had their jobs as part of the team and were there to walk us through all the parts they were responsible for. Like the other presenters we met, they were passionate about their jobs and more than willing to help us understand what they do.

All the way home my mind was working overtime. How could I use all or part of the information I learned in my work in progress or other stories? I opened my notebook as soon as I got in the door of my house and added in little tidbits I’d heard but not recorded. I didn’t want to forget anything.

The next day I started writing ideas in my ideas book, and now three days later I am still thinking up ideas and itching to put them down somewhere safe to use at a later date.

Lately, I’ve been having a bit of a writers’ slump, but this session has set my thinking gears in motion.

Well, I’m off to write in my book some more. Until next time…

About Linda O'Toole

Women's Fiction Author
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