Sometimes, the ideas just hit you right in the face. And then, they just stand there and keep punching.
I walked out our front door last week and there it was. It looked like someone had just dropped “the big one” somewhere East of our house, and my guess it was Decatur, Illinois. My mind immediately began asking why anyone would want to blow-up Decatur? What was in Decatur that was worth being targeted like that? I lived in Decatur many years ago, and I wondered what was in Decatur that I didn’t know was in Decatur, and was it there when I was there?
And then I remembered there had been another explosion in Decatur, back in 1974. There was an explosion in the Norfolk & Western rail yard caused by a big tank car crashing into an empty box car. It leaked isobutane for about ten minutes before it erupted into an explosion that killed 7, hurt more than 140, destroyed some 600 buildings, and burned for days. In today’s money, it did about $66 million in damage, and was felt up to 40 miles away. I wondered if history was being repeated?
Of course, I realized that, in reality, I was looking at a really nice big cloud. From somewhere in the past I heard my mind say it was a Cumulonimbus Anvil Cloud, though I’m not sure where I had picked up that piece of information. I somehow also remembered that Cumulonimbus Anvil Clouds meant things like hail, inches of rain, gale-force winds, and sometimes tornadoes. I wondered if, instead of being blown-up, Decatur was being blown-away?
And that, my friends, is how something as simple as a cloud leads to a list of story ideas. Just keep asking, “What if…?”