Monday, June 01, 2009


by Michael Dymmoch

The idea of collecting found objects wasn’t new when Davy Rothbart first published Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items.

I personally have files of notes like “You are A Fucking ASShole. You Parked your car literally on top of MiNe.”

God! I just hate pink!!” (on a pink envelope)


Occasionally a spammer will give you a line you couldn’t make up, like today’s subject line: Man selling life onn e-bay [sic]. You may be able to spin a short story, at least, from that.

Most writers have been doing something like Found in their heads all their lives. No one could make up the kind of lines that catch a writer’s ear—lines filed away or sometimes written down on the spot for futures use or reference. Sometimes we quote them verbatim—

“All they do is run they mouth. Talk, talk, talk.”

“Her boyfriend musta didn’t care nothing for her—all he gave her was a scarf.”

And from a lady complaining that the hair straightening solution used by her hairdresser was too strong— “I don’t like that girl. She don’t know to cut stuff down so it don’t be so strong, so it don’t burn me around the edges.”

Sometimes we paraphrase. A bus driver once mentioned to me that he’d never been as aware of time as he was since he’d taken the job. I borrowed the concept for a story about a man dealing with loss— "From the moment we heard the diagnosis, I had my eye on the clock. I'd never been so conscious of time. Before she died, it traveled faster than light; since then, it's stopped.”

There are wonderful, time-sucking blogs dedicated to the use of found items or ideas the ducks in the bathroom aren't mine.

and to things people don’t necessarily want to admit—Post Secret.

Sometimes you can spin a whole yarn from someone’s discarded note or throwaway line, but visuals are even better. I managed to spin a novel, M.I.A., off the bumper sticker on an old car.

This one probably has a story behind it—

And how many stories could be spun around this (spotted under a bridge)?


Have you a favorite sign or overheard quote you’d like to share? Or are you saving them all for your novels?