Friday, June 3, 2011

It’s Real Life, For Once

Copyright © 2011, Steven E. Houchin. All rights reserved.

I just sent off a short story for Writers Digest’s “Your Story” Contest #34. The rules specified to start off with the line of dialog, “You won’t believe what came in the mail today.”

My novels and short stories are based upon anything but my real life. After all, I usually don’t shoot at people, or steal wartime secrets, or blackmail my parrot’s previous owner, or time warp back to 1889 to chase down an arsonist, or wear clown makeup to bed. Although, come to think of it, the clown makeup sounds intriguing.

But, for the Your Story contest, the opening line immediately brought to mind my elderly aunt who passed away a few years ago. The postman’s arrival seemed the big highlight of her day, judging by the attention she gave to all the junk mail that poured in. Scams and gimmickry abounded in nearly every envelope - all clearly aimed at taking advantage of the elderly, who are often all too susceptible to emotional pleas. Added to that, her world was rocked when mail delivery was changed to 5:00 pm. Horror of horrors. What would she have to talk about if not the mail? What would she do with herself all day? The change to her routine drove her to distraction until, mercifully, the postal service moved her delivery back to late morning.

So, my beloved aunt provided the exact subject matter I needed for my short story. The precious pieces of mail, the scams she fell prey to, the junk she ordered, the altered delivery time. No guns or clowns or parrots or arson. Just real life put down on digital paper with a bit of author’s poetic license to weave it all together. Whodda thunk?

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