When Spiderman’s Peter Parker gets an inkling that something villainous is going down, his “spider-sense” tingles. I like to think I have a story-sense that operates in a similar way.
My current manuscript is based on the sensory tinglings that came from staying in a lighthouse keepers’ cottage on Kangaroo Island. I already found the setting incredibly evocative but a visit to a tiny cemetery sealed the deal. There was a story lingering in the air that I couldn’t help but explore.
Perhaps this story-sense is a legacy of my time in journalism, where it’s more commonly referred to as “a nose for news”. Good journalists prosper according to their capacity to glean a story that their competitors are unaware of. As Canberra gallery veteran Laurie Oakes told ABC Radio today, journalists are like police officers; they are never completely off duty. Their nose for news should always be twitching. (It then comes down to personal and professional ethics what they report and what they overlook.)
I love it when my story-sense is triggered as this is usually followed by a surge in curiosity and creativity. The hard yakka of writing comes well after this conceptual moment – when I toil to hone inspiration into an idea that a reader might get excited (and stay excited) about.
Sometimes the story is much bigger than a mere narrative nugget you stumble across. Sometimes the story is so big we all live it. I can’t help but feel yesterday’s US presidential election was one of those moments.
My sense is that the world held its breath yesterday, hoping and praying for an electoral miracle. And we got one. This old planet of ours is gasping for healing and leadership – areas in which the US has been impotent yet arrogantly assertive for several years.
Now the president-elect of the ailing, unpopular superpower is a young man with a Christian mother, Muslim father and an international upbringing. Barack Obama’s charisma is palpable, his speech-making inspirational (plaudits to his writers) and, from a distance, he seems to personify calm, ethical leadership.
Maybe I’m cashing cheques on a story we’re all yet to write but there’s no harm in hoping. The energy yesterday as the world waited for an election result was amazing. So, no matter what your faith, perhaps we should all harness that collective hope again, praying that this amazing story has a happy ending for our planet. The beginning has certainly been fantastic.