Wicked Wednesday: Worst Case Ideas

by Julie, summering away

Continuing on our theme of castaways, I’d like to discuss one of the ways a writer thinks. Whereas most people get upset thinking about a worst case scenario, we tend to take an ordinary event or circumstance and think of ways to make it bad. Then terrible. Then the worst.

Wickeds, do you daydream of making ordinary events terrible? Have you used these daydreams in a book? Does it get in the way of enjoying things?

Edith/Maddie: Of course I do! Whenever I’m out people watching, I always make up stories about strangers, their dark pasts, their terrible relationships. I dictate a lot of texts and emails and am fascinated by the autocorrect errors. That got me thinking about the errors’ potential for mayhem, so I’m noodling a short story based on some doozies. I’m happy to accept contributions in the comments.

Jessie: Dictation errors make me curious too, Edith! I am, at the bottom of all things, a strategic thinker. I am constantly calculating how a will bump into b and create c everywhere around me. I don’t necessarily seek to make things dark or terrible, but I do spot or speculate on connections and consequences. If those trajectories turn into something novel-worthy, so much the better!

Barb: I don’t think dark and terrible things about people I observe, unless they are being loud and obnoxious, in which case probably everyone else in the room is thinking the same thing. I give them back stories and current situations, but usually light, or comic, or unexpected ones. (Maybe that’s why I write cozies.) I do, however, daydream about apocalyptic events. I often look at the immediate horizon and imagine an explosion, a meteor, or a tidal wave, stuff like that. Then I think, “what do you do first?” That’s perfectly normal. Everybody does that, right? I think it’s a response to being momentarily bored and wanting a little novelty. I’ve never written a disaster or a post-apocalyptic piece of fiction, and I don’t think I ever will. (My son takes care of that department. You can read his short story Memory Day Report here.)

(Edith: Barb, that’s an amazing piece of writing!)

Sherry: Barb, I imagine those weird things too. But I give people dark sides when I see them. Recently, we were driving down this very busy divided highway. There was a man walking on this narrow strip of grass/weeds between the road and woods. He was carrying two heavy looking bright orange buckets with lids on them. I’ve never seen anyone walking there. It’s a very odd place to walk. Of course, my thoughts immediately went to the buckets have body parts in them. To make the whole thing every weirder I saw him again about five days later. This time with two white buckets! Serial killer.

(Barb: Sherry, I am laughing about bucket man!)

Julie: Sherry, bucket man is a writing prompt. Edith, I need to start dictating thoughts as they come, if for no other reason because of the autocorrects! Barb, I remember a dinner at Malice last year where you, Sherry and I were all silent, and realized we were wondering what was going on at the next table. The stories we came up with were great. I am definitely a worst case scenario gal.

I went to a ball game that was delayed because of a thunder storm, which meant we all had to go “inside” which meant the tunnels around Fenway. I turned to my brother-in-law and said that it looked like a setup for a scene in a Bruce Willis film, and there would be a motorcycle chase any minute. He looked at me, and nodded. Within two minutes we were all moving up to the area behind the grandstands.

A couple of weeks ago I had to call ServPro to help with some water damage. (Don’t ask.) Within minutes I had them talking about terrible clean up stories. Nothing too graphic, but the conversation was informative.

Liz: I am definitely a worst case scenario girl. I can go from zero to murder in ten seconds or less. And I love to look at idyllic places and imagine just how twisted things are just behind a few doors. I think it’s kind of fun! Of course I never want these things to really happen…

Friends, are you worst case imaginers? Does it get in your way of having fun, or do you use it to relieve stress?

27 Thoughts

  1. Yes, I can be at times. Always trying to figure out what happens and how am I going to survive.

  2. I’m usually a worst case scenario type especially when it comes to me. If a doctor mentions something I imagine the worst. To try to take my mind off of it besides reading a good mystery is to plan a trip and then I have something good to look forward to.

  3. Honestly think the best way of getting out of a bad mood is to think how horrible everyone else’s life must be or could be. Seeing the dark makes the light so much better. 🙂

    Oh Edith, I read your last post and laughed. I’m up early headed that 2 1/2 drive to specialist this morning. Have to be there by 8:45 so you know it was an very early morning around here. Headed to have the “good” cancer cut off my face by the nose and mouth. And yes, it’s very hard not to imagine the worst. Don’t we do that so that when the good news comes it’s an every bigger relief?
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  4. In real life, I am generally not a “worst case” person. I try to be optimistic, stress on “try.” But when I’m writing, I always ask, “How can I make this more difficult?”

    1. My first draft I never make it as bad as it needs to be. But adding that tension is part of the work. You do strike me as a very practical person–you will be optimistic, but you don’t delude yourself. I think of myself like that. Always expecting the best, but I am prepared to do whatever needs to be done.

  5. I feel better now. I’m always imagining horrifying scenarios where something awful happens to someone I know and how they deal with it. Then I think, “What’s WRONG with you?!”

  6. Interesting concept. I don’t necessarily imagine a worst case, but I definitely am making up stories all the time. Have you ever wondered why highways verges are littered with single sneakers? Might fit with Sherry’s man carrying his bucket lists!

    1. The sneakers are a great example. But as a mystery writer, doesn’t your imagination go to a terrible story rather than a more benign one? Single sneakers would be an interesting writing prompt for an anthology.

  7. Maybe not the “worst case” sometimes but definitely can go into a potential of crime or mysterious person or a haunting setting! Love all these answers! Except Kay-best wishes for fast recovery Kay. Time to get a couple of new books.

  8. Everyday is a worse case scenario so I just go out and hope for the best.

  9. My mother was an expert in doing worst case scenarios. Whenever a situation developed, she would always think of the worst possible outcome and dwelt on it. Honestly, it was depressing to be around her whenever she got like that. (She had many great attributes, though!)

  10. I used to be a worst case person, but those usually depressed me, so I leave that to writers now.

    And Sherry, Bucket man did have body parts the first time you saw him. The second time, those buckets were filled with dirt to make sure everything was buried.

  11. I find I do this when I’m trying to fall asleep. I just read this is not unusual. What is wrong with us?

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