A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 11
This is the 9th year in a row I’ve run this series in April. Last week, I provided a daily explanation about why you should make it a habit to be generating story ideas. This week, I’ll give you some tips on how to come up with stories.
Tip: Halliwell’s Film Guide.
This is based on the anecdote I heard about Woody Guthrie. Having written 4,000 songs in his life, he was asked how he came up with so many melodies. His answer: “Well, I take a melody I like, and I change it a lil’ here, and change it a lil’ there, and I make it my own.”
Same thing with Halliwell’s. You can read a post I wrote about it all the way back in November 2008, how you can read through the 24,000 movie listings — each with a logline — then gender and genre-bend your life to creative bliss.
Every aging society faces distinct challenges. But Japan, with the world’s oldest population (27.3 percent of its citizens are 65 or older, almost twice the share in the U.S.), has been dealing with one it didn’t foresee: senior crime. Complaints and arrests involving elderly people, and women in particular, are taking place at rates above those of any other demographic group. Almost 1 in 5 women in Japanese prisons is a senior. Their crimes are usually minor — 9 in 10 senior women who’ve been convicted were found guilty of shoplifting.
Why have so many otherwise law-abiding elderly women resorted to petty theft? Caring for Japanese seniors once fell to families and communities, but that’s changing. From 1980 to 2015, the number of seniors living alone increased more than sixfold, to almost 6 million. And a 2017 survey by Tokyo’s government found that more than half of seniors caught shoplifting live alone; 40 percent either don’t have family or rarely speak with relatives. These people often say they have no one to turn to when they need help.
Even women with a place to go describe feeling invisible. “They may have a house. They may have a family. But that doesn’t mean they have a place they feel at home,” says Yumi Muranaka, head warden of Iwakuni Women’s Prison, 30 miles outside Hiroshima. “They feel they are not understood. They feel they are only recognized as someone who gets the house chores done.”
Elderly women are also often economically vulnerable — nearly half of those 65 or older who live alone also live in poverty relative to the broader population, for example, compared with 29 percent of men. “My husband died last year,” one inmate says. “We didn’t have any children, so I was all alone. I went to a supermarket to buy vegetables, and I saw a package of beef. I wanted it, but I thought it would be a financial burden. So I took it.”
Marta is alone. Her husband has been dead for 2 years. Her only child is a divorced woman struggling to make ends meet who, Marta feels, sees her mother as an imposition.
Whatever income Marta receives from social security is not nearly enough to sustain herself, even given the fact she eats one meal per day and lives in a squalid one bedroom apartment in a crime-ridden neighborhood.
Up until a week ago, Marta worked off the books at a laundromat in the steamy, claustrophobic back room, ironing and pressing clothes, but she was fired due to her devolving performance as a result of arthritis in her hands.
And there’s this: She’s lonely. At 73, most of her friends are dead. Her daughter (no children) rarely comes to visit or even call.
What she needs is three meals a day. A dependable roof over her head. Plus, a community of women who can be her friends.
That leads her to think of prison as a viable life-option.
So, she robs a bank… badly. Gets caught. Let off due to no prior convictions.
What does she do? She robs another bank, this time resulting in her being sent away to prison.
Marta has accomplished her goal, however, there is one small problem.
It’s a prison. A real prison. Marta is in way over her head.
With that as a setup, you could go:
Drama: Marta navigates through the choppy, threatening waters of prison gangs and a corrupt warden.
Comedy: Delighted to find herself in the midst of so many potential friends, Marta’s revivified spirit inspires her fellow prisoners to seek a better life.
Thriller: Marta is witness to a prison murder which gets her caught up in a war between rival gangs with her life hanging in the balance.
There you go: My eleventh story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free! Here are links for all the previous posts in this year’s series:
Each day this month, I invite you to click on RESPONSES and join me to do some further brainstorming. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when you play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.
See you in comments. And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.