A few friends and relatives have told me that they’ve always dreamed of writing, but can’t come up with any story ideas. Indeed, when the bug to write fiction first took hold, I felt the same way, coming up with plenty of lack-lustre ideas before settling on the idea that would sustain me through the course of a whole novel.
When it comes to short stories, however, the inspiration can be as small as one random incident or interaction that sticks in your mind or moves you in some way. An image, an idea or a what if. Something from your everyday life which provokes an emotional response and raises much larger questions in your mind. Once you find that incident, you’ve found your story idea. We all have these moments; the trick is to recognise them and take note of them at the time.
My first short story accepted for publication was inspired by such an incident.
I work as an anaesthetist, and therefore spend time with people from all walks of life, dealing with life and death. Loss and fear. Love and joy. It’s a privilege to be admitted into other people’s lives and hopefully make a difference to them during horrific, stressful moments. These people—my patients and their relatives—have a profound effect on me, one I often carry home. They invade my thoughts and occasionally move me to tears.
One of those moments occurred when I gave a woman an anaesthetic for a caesarean section. It was one of those crashingly urgent ones, like you see on television dramas, with frenetic movement and people everywhere. And the baby did not survive. This tragedy affected everyone deeply, but the thing that still sticks in my mind was wheeling the woman back to recovery after the operation, when she was in the in-between zone: emerging from the anaesthetic but not quite fully awake. And she asked me the same question, over and over again. ‘What happened to the baby?’
Here is a link to the work of flash fiction inspired by the incident, titled ‘Perseveration’, published in the Grieve Anthology, Volume 5, by Hunter Writers Centre, 2017. You can purchase the book by following the link, and the ebook will also be available soon, from the usual channels.