This morning I read an article in the latest issue of Writing Magazine entitled ‘Be Curious!’ For a writer (and anyone who is nosy!), this is such good advice: as writers, we need to ask questions to create intrigue, tension and emotion. And the place that asking emanates from is curiosity.
Unfortunately, adulthood tends to strip us of the wide-eyed, un-self-conscious and questing view of the world that we had as children, thus making it harder to excavate curiosity in our daily lives – and this is the point that Helen Yendall makes. I’m a big believer in manners and politeness and so don’t like to overtly pry into someone’s business, or be rude and antagonise them or a situation they’re/we’re in...but I also believe that the daily drudgery of our lives anaesthetises us to what is going on around us. We forget to really look at people and places, to really wonder and ponder about them. Instead of asking them questions, we answer with our pre-conceived ideas and often, sadly, our prejudices created in or by our culture/society. (And I admit that I’m a right one for shouting “Dysfunctional people!” at Jeremy Kyle on the TV without considering just how and why it is that those people don’t have an alternative support system that they can turn to.)
So, taking inspiration from Yendall’s article, I decided to be curious today. With an afternoon shift at work to come, I knew there would be decent material in the guise of customers, transactions and tasks! (I work in a clothes shop, for those not in the know. Believe me, we get all sorts of people and situations, bad and good and sometimes just plain funny!)
Here are my Curious Questions of today:
1. (After taking in a neighbour’s parcel because she was out when it was delivered) What has she ordered that is named ‘Swordfish’ on the box? Is she starting some kind of an aquarium, or even a swish seafood restaurant? Is she breeding mini Jaws-like hybrids, or does she have a grievance against King Triton and has kidnapped a few of his fish? The box is heavy, so...
(NB. This was much more interesting and inspiring before I noticed that ‘Shredder’ was written underneath! Still, a shredder with mechanical teeth the strength of a swordfish...there could be something there!)
2. Why did the pretty girl in her late teens choose to wear a feather in her hair while out shopping? It was purple, with a burgundy rose nestled in her pinned-up black hair. Against her porcelain skin, it seemed somehow Charleston-like: daring, witty, energetic. She was wearing a dark, ordinary-looking coat, so I couldn't see if the rest of her outfit matched - but what if it didn't, I wonder? Who was she, and where did she develop this hairstyle from? Do her friends style their hair the same, or is she a maverick?
3. Looking out of the door at four o'clock, why does the suddenness of the early, dark evenings speak of lost hours and cocooned existence? Why does it feel as if the world didn’t wake this morning after all, and won’t tomorrow morning? Indeed, we are up and about it in before it does dawn, the sun struggling through the clouds like an afterthought, so where does the night go when the day takes over?
4. How could such dry skin corrupt a lady’s hands? Though older, she was neat and well dressed; yet her hands told of secrets shrivelled underneath her skin, perhaps of endless cleaning, washing, laundering. Or could it be chemicals that stripped away the smoothness of her skin, and how did she come into contact with them? Is she as bothered by this incongruity as much as I?
5. Who was that knocking on my door just before seven p.m., and why was part of the reason that I didn’t want to answer and find out was that it was dark? Could they hear me moving around inside? Could they see my silhouette through the curtains? It was a slight, hesitant knock so why didn’t I feel that I could put them (and myself) at ease?
Even from these scant observations, questions have sparked; I can see avenues heading into events and situations, genres and characters (and perhaps these are obvious and clichéd as a starting point, but developing an idea takes time and work...and this would be to come if I did decide to pursue one of these). So, material indeed, just from one afternoon of curiously observing! For the rest of this week, I want to keep a Curious List and see where it leads me...
Let me challenge you now: be curious tomorrow. What will you hear, who will you see? What happenings will you spot, and what will you wonder? And...
Will you tell me?