Today, I was driving back from the Post Office when I pulled up at a stoplight behind a small car. I can’t tell you what kind it was, because its logo didn’t get my attention. What did get my attention were the three pine tree-shaped car deodorizers that hung from the car’s review mirror. You know the ones – they look like little Christmas trees, smell strongly of something that resembles pines, swing wildly when the car they’re in turns a corner.
I hate those things. I know they serve a purpose, but not in my car. Their stench is just about on a par with other nasty things I would rather leave at the curb. That’s not to say someone else can’t love them. And I am aware that they have other scents for those little tree shapes now, scents that weren’t around when I first made their acquaintance.
If you love them, or you work in a place that makes them, I apologize.
Anyway, I couldn’t stop looking at those and wondering why that car’s owner had three of those smelly excuses for a sachet hanging from his mirror. Did he want to cover up the smell of cat vomit/dog poop/a dead body? Did he regularly forget to shower? Transport too many White Castle hamburgers? Did someone leave a dead fish in the car like in the movie, Grumpy Old Men?
Why did I care?
Ah. Why did I care? I truly can’t answer that except to say that this is what I do all the time as a writer. Find some stupid little detail that gets my attention and I can’t let it go, like when I find a thread hanging off a shirt and I just have to pull it to see what happens. I make up reasons for that detail, put it in different scenarios in my head, wonder who that person is who owns the detail, think about what it could lead to.
By the time I got home, a matter of 10 minutes from when I saw the oddly arresting little tree shapes, I had half a story in my head. Not sure when I’ll actually figure out the other half of that story, but that one detail unleashed a lot of thought.
And that, right there, is one reason details matter. Without them, there is no story.
Come on back here on Friday, when my weekly writing prompts zero in on all kinds of goofy details. See you then.
Curious about the above-mentioned car air fresheners? Here’s the link to Little Trees Air Fresheners.