I Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

I can't make this stuff upI’m going great guns on my new book after so much time away over the holidays, so blogging has taken a back seat. But I couldn’t help but think of you as I read my morning paper today, so I’m checking in quickly.

So often I’m asked where I get my ideas. I’ve explained how it works  more than once, but today felt like such an illustration of possibilities, I had to leap in and give you a few. Read along, and if you feel like playing, tell me how you would use the following TRUE stories to help you jump start a plot for your next novel.

All these ideas come from our skinny local section. Since some of the stories are less than friendly to local people and institutions, I won’t elaborate on where my very excellent paper is published. More important please note that I’m just talking about fodder for fiction. It’s possible all these decisions are completely on the up and up and in everybody’s best interests. But they are certainly interesting for a novelist to consider.

Take a look:

1–A local school board has voted to relax their standards for substitute teachers. The board has found it’s particularly difficult to find subs to cover special education and classes in Title 1 schools. (Apparently these students no longer require particularly well-educated teachers to deal with their needs.) Whatever the school board means, the new standards will require only a high school diploma or a GED. Subs no longer have to complete 60 hours of college work to be hired.

In all fairness, the reason that’s cited is that so few teachers are being trained, there aren’t enough qualified substitutes. In fact the teachers in training at one local university are only 1/3 of what they were ten years ago.

Why do you suppose so few teachers are being trained? I have my own ideas, things like an abundance of paperwork, fewer opportunities to be creative in the classroom, and yes, salary.  But let’s hear yours.

And while you’re commenting, think back to your own education and the substitute teachers you once had. Do you think they needed more or less education and training? What would my characters think?

2–A local zoning appeals board reappointed the head of an influential construction advocacy group to the panel, despite concerns expressed by a local advocate who believed the man’s job and his role on the panel might be in conflict. You think that might be a problem? Is that a conflict waiting to happen between characters?

3–Children in foster care are often overlooked as the state of Florida–I’ll reveal that much–counts children for their census. The rest of this article is interesting, too. The state may lose millions from the federal government because of under counting its children. In 2010 Florida had the second largest under counting on record, but despite that, this time we were still one of the last states to launch a committee to look into it, and then only because nonprofits hammered home the need.

Let’s concentrate on the first sentence here. Children in foster care are in danger of being overlooked in our census. Children who are, hopefully, in the state’s records somewhere. It makes you think, doesn’t it? If the state doesn’t know they’re there, who the heck does?

4–This one’s heartwarming, so a good place to end. Bruce Springsteen’s son was sworn in Tuesday as a firefighter with a New Jersey department. A famous rock star and his musician wife. A young man with every possible opportunity who chooses to serve the state he loves doing a dangerous job to protect others. Who wouldn’t want to write that story?

You’ve got to love the newspaper. I can’t make this stuff up, and I promise I didn’t make these up today. All these were contained in an eight page section that also included the TV listings and the weather. But the stories I could make up using some parts of these real life stories? 

Something to think about. 

How about you?


  1. Nancy on January 15, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    You have some interesting fodder for new stories. The article about substitute teachers brings me sadness. If school systems hire anyone as a substitute teacher, they can’t be considered a teacher. What they’re basically looking for is a babysitter! I realize many young people are not getting into the teaching field, not only due to the low pay scale, but teachers now have to face dealing with youngsters who have no respect for their elders, teachers are not allowed to discipline their charges, and with all the recent school shooting, teaching has become a hazardous occupation. Children need and deserve to be disciplined and taught to respect others. These are the future leaders of our country, and we need to make sure they are not only learning basic education, but morals and the Golden Rule.

  2. Merlene on January 17, 2020 at 5:04 am

    I think one of the major reasons people are not wanting to teach now is the lack of discipline. Also, students do not respect teachers as they once did.

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