A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 8
This is the 9th year in a row I’ve run this series in April. Why a story idea each day for the month? Several reasons which I’ll work my through during this series of posts. Here’s another one:
You always need more than one in your gun.
Want that explained? Go here to read a Business of Screenwriting post.
Today’s story idea: The Man Who Knew Too Little.
The most ignorant man in America knows that Donald Trump is president — but that’s about it. Living a liberal fantasy is complicated.
GLOUSTER, Ohio — At first, the experiment didn’t have a name.
Right after the election, Erik Hagerman decided he’d take a break from reading about the hoopla of politics.
Donald Trump’s victory shook him. Badly. And so Mr. Hagerman developed his own eccentric experiment, one that was part silent protest, part coping mechanism, part extreme self-care plan.
He swore that he would avoid learning about anything that happened to America after Nov. 8, 2016.
“It was draconian and complete,” he said. “It’s not like I wanted to just steer away from Trump or shift the conversation. It was like I was a vampire and any photon of Trump would turn me to dust.”
It was just going to be for a few days. But he is now more than a year into knowing almost nothing about American politics. He has managed to become shockingly uninformed during one of the most eventful chapters in modern American history. He is as ignorant as a contemporary citizen could ever hope to be.
James Comey. Russia. Robert Mueller. Las Vegas. The travel ban. “Alternative facts.” Pussy hats. Scaramucci. Parkland. Big nuclear buttons. Roy Moore.
He knows none of it. To Mr. Hagerman, life is a spoiler.
“I just look at the weather,” said Mr. Hagerman, 53, who lives alone on a pig farm in southeastern Ohio. “But it’s only so diverting.”
He says he has gotten used to a feeling that he hasn’t experienced in a long time. “I am bored,” he said. “But it’s not bugging me.”
It takes meticulous planning to find boredom. Mr. Hagerman commits as hard as a method actor, and his self-imposed regimen — white-noise tapes at the coffee shop, awkward scolding of friends, a ban on social media — has reshaped much of his life.
“I had been paying attention to the news for decades,” Mr. Hagerman said. “And I never did anything with it.”
At some point last year, he decided his experiment needed a name. He considered The Embargo, but it sounded too temporary. The Boycott? It came off a little whiny.
Mr. Hagerman has created a fortress around himself. “Tiny little boats of information can be dangerous,” he said.
He decided that it would be called The Blockade.
Here’s where I went with this for a story idea. What if someone — let’s call him Don — is confronting a potential tragedy in his life? Some really bad news about a loved one… a friend… who has a terminal disease. Perhaps Don has visited the hospital yet again, keeping his friend Sarah company as their body and soul wither away. The doctor confides in Don: “I doubt she’ll make it through the night.”
Unable to bear the thought of Sarah’s death, Don decides to stop the world. No TV. No phone. No news. No updates from any of his connections. That if he doesn’t actually SEE or HEAR news about his friend’s death, then Don will be able to keep her ‘alive’.
This story would be an exploration of how far a person will go to avoid confronting loss and the grieving process.
Don trains neighbors, family members, and friends to avoid any mention of Sarah. To put some ‘teeth’ into his declaration, he adds this detail: If anyone fails to abide my his wishes, he will kill himself.
This is, of course, a small indie drama in which at all times, Sarah is both absent and present while Don transacts life keeping her alive by dwelling in the void of hearing the truth.
Where does it go? Eventually, Don will end up visiting Sarah’s grave. How he gets there? That’s the story which needs to be told.
There you go: My eighth 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.