That's life: that's the story

People often ask me from whence comes the concept of a short story or of a novel. I answer, 'Give me a character with a problem and I'll give you a story that will mean something to you and to all of us, whether over four pages of fiction or four hundred'.  For instance...

My January story of the month was about a postman whose wife had left him, February's was about a middle aged dog-loving lady oppressed by loneliness; for March the story was about a crippled soldier confronting a Scottish hill he had climbed easily in his youth and April's featured a husband-deserted TV weather lady about to lose her job. June's story featured a middle aged, middle of the road solicitor secretly in love with his secretary, now charged with the reading of a very unusual Will. July's story was about a boxer who is running away with his dog from his life in the the ring, having disabled an opponent, August's is about a Brit business couple who have relocated to France and now find they cannot sell up and come back because of the collapsed property market - and September's will be about a penniless artist planning an audacous crime, but I can't say more because I haven't finished it yet and I honestly don't know at this point how it will end up!

Someone responded to this by saying that life isn't all about problems; not everybody has a problem. 'Wrong', I responded. 'If you're human and alive you always have a problem, in fact more or many of them and often overlapping, hopelessly intertwined. As the situations above should illustrate it isn't often the extreme kind of problem, thank goodness - like you ran down a pedestrian in your car and didn't stop and are waiting for the knock on the door. More likely to be you're a five years old for the first time left by mummy in infant school or the guy on the next desk at work is outperforming you or you have been invited out and your only best dress has a moth hole in it or you are a billionaire being blackmailed by ... You get the picture.

It's about how you deal with your problem. That's life. That's the story. That's the easy part. The hard part is writing and resolving it - hard or soft.

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