At the most boiled-down level, stories are about something breaking. Relationships going wrong, something not working, a failure of psyche or of material, a person in the wrong place, a cat on someone else’s mat.
So anything broken, ruined or wrecked is a place rich with ideas.
Take this building, by the river near where my parents live. Whenever I walk past it I get to wondering: who was the last person who lived here? When did the first tile fall? What happened here, when this was a working building?
But I know I’ll never write a historical novel – I don’t have the kind of attention to detail required, which would mean that any historical effort by me would include terrible errors such as allowing serving girls to pick bluebells, when in fact the lower classes weren’t allowed to look at flowers until 1879, or having someone say ‘pumpkin’ when the letter ‘p’ wan’t invented until 1904. (Or something.)
So I think about other things when I walk past this place. Who uses it now? Who might sleep rough here, kiss here, argue here? What wildlife lives here, and who might study it? Who dreams of what the place could be? If someone bought it, what would they hope to restore in their own lives by restoring this building?
And sometimes I see what this place could be. A gallery, a home, a retreat. And that opens up another world of possible people, and situations, and broken things that need to be fixed.