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Potato-wielding man tried to rob store, dry cleaners

You’re ready to write a story. You’ve actually made time in your day for it. You sit down at your desk or wherever it is that you feel inspired to write. Pencil and paper are at hand. (Or your laptop, if you start there.) And then…absolutely nothing comes into your mind. No character, no plot, nothing.

The potato – plot weapon of choice?  (Photo by lusi at

What’s a writer to do?

You could break out a book of prompts. Or head online for an unlimited supply of them. You can certainly look at a photo or a postcard or a painting and maybe see a story in one of those. There’s another avenue, though, that you might not have considered: finding your story in the insanities, moral ambiguities, and sheer depravities that make up the REAL WORLD around us.

Joybubbles, 58; was one of original phone phreaks

I collect headlines from the Boston Globe I read every morning. And then there are the eye-catching headers on my homepage (which is generated by MSN and personalized by me). Why make shit up when it’s sitting right there in front of you ripe for the picking?

Should prison inmates have the right to masturbate?

One rule: No using rags like the National Inquirer and the Weekly World News. They’re already dealing in fiction, so you’d just be plagiarizing their stuff. Though maybe the FBI did capture a bat child once. And if the jury’s out on Disney’s Mulan being a man, who’s to say that Abraham Lincoln wasn’t a woman?

Because I’m nice and like to share with readers, below is a sampling of the news stories I’ve discovered through the years. Feel free to borrow one. Just make sure you share back any story you might write from it.

  • She’s charged in apple attack on spouse – Yes, the wife pelted her beloved with a Granny Smith (okay, I made that detail up) and got caught.
  • Restaurant sues over ‘Carcass Removal’ listing – “A Montana restaurant listed in the phone book under ‘Animal Carcass Removal’ …” Just go from there.
  • Body parts sold to kebab stand, police say – Though that bears more than a passing resemblance to the tales of Sweeney Todd. Don’t eat the pie either.
  • NM man set on fire after losing drinking bet – Actually, his “friends” set his prosthetic leg on fire. He just happened to be wearing it.
  • Train severs limbs of teens sunbathing on railroad trestle – That’s just an example of Darwinism.
  • NY zoo closes reptile house after cobra disappears – Oh, my, check the baby’s diaper bag!
  • 78,000 apply to leave Earth forever to live on Mars – That’s commitment.
  • Disgraced scrapbooking star survives the cruelest cut – Apparently, she cheated in some contest, and “Scrapbooking bloggers compared it to performance-enhancing drug controversies of major league baseball players.”

So, go ahead. Write a story using one of these as your jumping off point. And,  if you see any similarly thought-provoking headlines, please share them with us here. Otherwise, like in the case of the disgraced scrapbooker, we might have to call “foul” for plot-enhancement.





Author: Laura S

Laura Salamy is a published author. Her essays and short stories have appeared in print and online. As the owner of The Polished Paragraph, she edits and proofreads other writers of all kinds. She is currently an assistant editor for the lit journal Fifth Wednesday, and she blogs on the fourth of every month for get born magazine. In her past life, Laura spent many years in the environmental, health and safety industry. She also worked for a non-profit completing grant applications and doing other "stuff." In her spare time, Laura creates colorful and less-than-traditional hooked rugs and mats. Many are "up-cycled" from old clothes, funky fabrics, and notions. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, a teenager (oh no!), and a very silly dogs.


  1. Most of these seem a little outré even to me, but I like ‘78000 leaving earth,’ and ‘carcass removal’ definitely has possibilities if done à la E. Annie Proulx or Fargo.

    Hmmm, thank you Laura, you have indeed identified a method to focus my nefarious activities.

  2. Laughing, Ron. I have some others, but I would’ve had to explain the story some behind them. The titles weren’t telling enough – even a little. hope all is well with you. You should try to make your way up this here sometime this summer.

  3. I remember the cobra story. That made national news.

    I can picture inmates taking control of a prison, with only one demand: to beat the bishop whenever they want. “Attica! Attica!” *splurt* “We need more tissues! We need more tissues!”

    Thus proving once again that fact will always be stranger and more absurd than anything us fiction writers can churn out. You gotta love it. And now that you’ve mentioned Sweeney Todd, I suddenly find myself in the mood for some meat pie…

  4. Pie. Yum… Maybe you can make it with the potatoes that the guy was using to rob the shops. Channel 10 reported that they got him.