Story Starter: Tightrope

Boy on a tightrope.

Out for my lunchtime walk today – sunshine! blue skies! – I came upon two young guys practising tightrope walking. Honestly, it was like a gift from the story starter fairy.

Obviously my first thought was you. So I seized the day – see previous story starter introduced myself and asked if I could take a quick photo.

I like lots of things about this, including the care they’ve taken not to damage the trees. Look how they’ve protected the trunk with a thick towel wadded between the strap and the bark.

There are obvious themes to come out of the pic. Walking a tightrope. Gaining or losing focus. Losing one’s balance, metaphorically speaking. Carpe diem (again). You’ll think of lots more, I’m sure. Maybe even conquering shyness; I’m not naturally one to bowl up to two young men and ask to take their photograph, and doubt I would have had the nerve in my younger years. I guess being older brings its own confidence, its own protective carapace.

Actually being older brings lots of things. I’ve noticed recently that while most of the youngsters from our teen mags are friendly within the office, outside they can walk right past me. And it’s not unfriendliness or anything like that. It’s just that seeing me out of context, somewhere unexpected, they don’t see me. I’ve become part of the anonymous middle-aged.

Anyway, back to my two young men…. I purposely haven’t included their names, because names immediately begin to create characters, and I want you to have a blank slate. For the same reason I haven’t shown the tightrope walker’s face. But I’m very grateful to them for letting me take the shot. And to the story starter fairy, too, of course….

PS This is beside the same path where I saw the specs last week. They’re still there.

PPS We do an exercise like this – starting a story from all sorts of different stimuli – at the Story Writing Workshop. Booking form here for Dundee, Sept 21, and York, Sept 28. Places still available.



Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.