I sometimes find myself listening to a sad story someone is telling me and thinking, I can use that.
I don’t, though. My theory is that if someone I know personally tells me something, that’s their story, not mine. If I overhear it on the bus, or it’s on the news, or it’s some kind of common knowledge, then I can use it.
Some of the details of stories can be very useful in forming characters and stories though. One of my obsessions is how our possessions are dealt with after our death. Precious things that perhaps people fought over, sacrificed for; these things can become rubbish after a death. I’ll pick up little stories about how people’s relatives deal with the doling out of the goodies; do they fight, do they hate each other at the end of it, do they share nicely, do they think the whole house if full of junk and get rid of all of it?
You find these things at garage sales. Books with passionate inscriptions, tossed out. (To my darling, with love for always. Or, in Best New Horror 8: Happy 18th!! I think i remember you liking a scary story or two. Hope this scares the pants of you!! Have fun and B good!! I love that! A short story right there. Is it for a potential lover, or a friend? The exclamation marks are a bit eager for mine. And the B good is interesting.
I love the idea of how an item can change so drastically in its worth. Even a football. While it’s on the field, it might be worth a million dollars, depending on the game. But once the siren blows, it’s just a footy, and the kids can run on and kick it around.
All this gets my brain moving and makes my characters greedy to own the goodies.