Last week I ran across a rather nifty experiment – the Significant Objects Project. Several writers each chose a random, seemingly worthless item picked up from a thrift shop or yard sale, created a story to go along with it, then listed each item on eBay for sale. The experiment is designed to determine if an object’s perceived value increases when it has an interesting story attached. I was utterly fascinated. We all imbue certain importance to objects in our lives, even when those objects have no generic value of their own. Think about the first time you show your trinkets off to someone. There’s always a story to go along with them. Most of the time that story is rather ordinary – where you bought it, how you managed to finagle it away from another bidder, that sort of thing. But occasionally there’s something different to say, something that increases the value of the item by virtue of its strangeness.
I’m a sucker for thrift shops. I used to spend every Saturday morning prowling the Goodwill store and local yard sales, hunting for weird little trinkets that struck my fancy. I have a huge brass padlock, an even bigger baroque-style candlestick, a small brass incense thurible and a small statue of the Virgin with the moon at her feet, among other things. Each one of those objects intrigued me, made me wonder what their stories might be. Maybe the statue belonged to Marilyn Monroe, who was secretly the leader of a coven of white witches working to stop the tensions in Central America. What if my thurible causes everyone who breathes in the smoke to fall under the holder’s sway? Or it could be that my lock was the lock on Anne Boleyn’s cell door when she was imprisoned in the Tower, and is still haunted by the guilty spirit of the jailer who had to keep her.
If you’re having trouble getting started with a story, or you just don’t know what to write about, this is a superb exercise. Look around your house, find some random object and write a story about where it camefrom. Don’t worry about whether it makes sense, or whether the facts you attach to it are correct. Just go nuts. If you want to, post your (short, please!) stories here in the comments.