Although that is the point, isn’t?  As a writer, I mean.  Making it up.  Making it up as you go along? Y’know - if Plan A has failed to work (that character you had been busy creating for so long turned out to be a Persona Non Grata after all, causing your plot to disintegrate before you’d even started) then you have to switch to Plan B. ie: Make It Up As You Go Along.

A friend of mine, a father of twin daughters, was set-upon by said lovelies after a long day at work, demanding that they paint his nails.* One wanted full-on glittery with a shimmy of pink, the other, monster green and vomit yellow.  You can appreciate his reticence.  After a while of pleadings and rebuttals, they struck a deal: toe nails only, a foot each.  That way he could complete his fatherly indulgence, the kids would be happy, and no-one at work would know.  However, he wasn’t banking on falling asleep in front of the telly.  It was with great courage then, that the following day he went to work proudly displaying ten differently painted fingernails, each looking as though they had been painted by a badger with a toilet brush.  It was some time later his wife confessed that actually, there had been plenty of nail varnish remover in the house after all - she just couldn’t find it at the time.  So she said.

But there wouldn’t be a story if she had, and, for the purposes of story-telling/scene creating/plot thickening, I would have had to switch to Plan B in the re-telling of this tale.   But my point is, this is such an unlikely tale, you really couldn’t make it up.  Therefore, as a writer looking to make that quirky short story better than the others, to give that opening chapter impact, to grab the attention of the reader - so often it’s better to use a real-life scenario.  A true story comes loaded with authenticity, with genuine emotions, and when it rings true, that validity is conveyed to the reader.  It is a skill that any half-decent stand-up comedian learns very early.  But where to get these prompts that will suddenly expand into prose?

1. Short newspaper items - the freebie paper Metro (other freebie newspapers are available) has some great stuff in it - texts and messages from real travellers: ‘To the woman in the red coat on the 8.26 from Kings Lynn - I think I love you.  Hold a copy of The Times tomorrow to let me know you know.’  Squishy romance or scary stalker talk?

2. My favourite - Partially over-heard comments and conversations.  I heard this one when passing two women sat in the breakfast bar area in a well-known motel chain: ‘And My God she was enormous!  It would never fit!’  Which begs the question - on or in?!

3. Queue Observations: what better place to study the human race than in a queue?  It’s the proximity that does it. Some stand politely, waiting.  Others use their time to do other things - usually with a phone.  Some look desperately around for someone to make conversation with, and others - you know who they are - just love to complain. The Whingers.  The Attention Seekers. ‘They could work a bit faster couldn’t they!  I haven’t got all day!’ despite the person behind the counter enduring a plastered leg and sporting a patch over one eye.  If you’re looking for a grumpy character with a less than fulfilling life, go stand in a queue.

And re the above, I recently made a purchase in a large store that needed fitting to my car.  The counter-staff was hopping around behind the counter inputting the sale into the till and I thought he had hurt his foot.  As he asked me to show him to my car, he dropped into a wheelchair and wheeled himself out of the store.  When reaching my car, he then stood up on his remaining leg to fiddle with my car engine.  See.  You just couldn’t make that up. Thankfully the Paralympic and Invictus Games have helped make wheelchair users and the less-abled more visible in society, but as yet they have not had much of an impact on our fiction writing.  That surely, is something that needs to be addressed?

And for the observant among you - asterisk - second paragraph first sentence: the internet is full pictures of dads having their nails painted by their daughters!  Check it out - it’ll give you a fuzzy warm glow...