Emergency Room visits are a place for story-stuff gathering. Well, urgent other things too, many of them far less fun and diverting, such as the small but painful emergency in my family tonight.

But there’s definitely all kinds of story material just lying around there (or walking through, or yelling from another room). It’s all ripe for the capturing. So many writing prompts! So little time!

It’s a violation of privacy to go see what’s really happening, but nobody’s violating any HIPAA rules if they take that simple input, and make up a story from that and imagination alone.

A crowded corridor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston looks a lot like the place where I spent a chunk of the evening. (Photo by Boston Globe/File Photo 2017).
A crowded corridor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston looks a lot like the place where I spent a chunk of the evening. (Photo by Boston Globe/File Photo 2017).

Writing prompts, such as . . . ?

What’s the kid wailing about, three rooms down? You’d think they were exacting 93-and-a-half minutes of torture. How did s/he end up here?  Did somebody say something about an X-ray?

Who’s the woman who keeps patiently telling someone, “No, you can’t get out of bed. No, you can’t stand up”? To whom is she talking? What’s that person’s problem? Why does she remain so patient and kind with them? What kind of person is she, and what is their relationship?

Why were those three police officers standing huddled to one side, talking intently in low tones? Who’s in the room nearby? What brought them there?

For whom did the black priest in the clerical collar arrive? Why is the family in matching sports jerseys crying and hugging in the waiting room? And what’s with Balloon-Woman?

Story-stuff-gathering in practice

Life happens. Writers make stories out of it. 

Yes, I spent more time in the ER tonight than anybody ever wants to (unless they work there). The outcome was positive, and the problems are being dealt with. Thank God for the Emergency Room!

But the story-stuff was thick on the ground, and the story-stuff-gathering was awesome. I don’t know when or how or if these elements will show up in a future story, but they helped me deal with tonight, and I’m praying for all of the real people mentioned above (certainly including Balloon Woman).

Whenever life gets tough, I start story-stuff-gathering, and I know I’m not the only one. Because, at their heart, stories are about the tough times, the devastating events, the challenging obstacles that we don’t know how we’ll surmount–and surmounting them.

The role of Story

This quote-image from author Donna Tartt reads, "The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, int the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone."
(Title Wave for Books on Facebook)

When our protagonists find a way, they blaze a trail, sometimes. They represent. They offer hope. That’s story-making at its most archetypal, doing its work in the world.

So thank you, God, for story-stuff-gathering opportunities, even when they test and dismay us. And here’s to the hope that we story-makers may be empowered do well by our role the world.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to the Boston Globe, for the photo of the Emergency Room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, with an ER corridor that looks a lot like the one where I spent most of this evening, and to Donna Tartt and TitleWave for Books on Facebook for the quote-image that has become my motto