Where do story ideas come from? – A garlic clove

Where do story ideas come from? – A garlic clove

Garlic - Photo by Michael Alexander Photography

Garlic – Photo by Michael Alexander Photography

People often wonder where authors get their story ideas, so I wanted to start a series of blog posts dedicated to how I came up with the stories in my collection, Amidst Traffic.

The idea for Duct Tape People actually came to me while I was peeling garlic while working at a pizzeria.

How’s it possible? How could a story about an underground organization obsessed with visionaries start with a piece of garlic?

Find out after the jump…

Years ago, I used to work at a Neapolitan Pizzeria located in Pittsburgh, which has since changed ownership and name to Piccolo Forno. Each day my shift began with preparing fresh ingredients for that evening. I did everything from slicing mushrooms, to chopping fresh mozzarella to peeling garlic.

As my fingers worked the papery skin of the garlic, a question came to my mind:

“What would it be like to bite into a whole clove?”

Would the taste be overwhelming? Would it sting? Would my eyes water?

Then a second thought came to me, which came in the form of a visual. For some reason, I pictured a man in a polished business suit biting into a garlic clove.

I wondered in that moment what kind of man might do that. The answer came. A man who wanted to intimidate. A man who would bite into a piece of garlic as an intimidation factor.

Immediately a scene came to my mind with vivid details and descriptions. I had to write it down. I pulled up a piece of paper and jotted down some notes.

Eventually those scribbled notes became the following passage after a slew of edits:


Victor’s smooth fingertips rubbed and peeled the flakes of skin off the bundle, slowly exposing the interior cloves. The flakes of skin swooped down like fallen leaves. 

With his careful, slow-moving fingers, Victor  snapped one of the cloves from its bundle and ripped and twisted the skin off of that individual piece as well. He let the rest of the garlic roll back into his pocket, and more of those flakes zigzagged and spun their way slowly to the rug.

Victor didn’t move to pick up the garlic skin. Instead he brought the naked, moist clove to his lips and bit into it as if it were an almond. His eyes remained solid, unblinking, staring holes into Jack’s pupils. 

Jack could smell the crunched garlic from where he sat. Victor’s jaw worked the garlic between his teeth, as though he were eating something chewy and tasteful.


Just through those details I could build the tention between Victor and Jack. All because of a garlic clove.

Later, that same day, I was reading an article in the Post-Gazette about a man named David Booth who claimed to be haunted by catastrophic visions of the future.

In that article, Booth coined the term “Duct Tape People” for a group of people who are obsessed with futuristic catastrophes.

“These are the duct tape people,” Booth said. “If you want to talk about the purveyors of apocalyptic visions of the future, don’t go to the Internet. Go to our government.”

From there, my own take and spin of the Duct Tape People was born, where the story begins with three mysterious men paying Jack a visit because he knows something he isn’t willing to share.


What about you?

Have you ever had a story idea born out of something completely random or insignificant?


About Michel Sauret

I'm a independent and literary fiction author and Pittsburgh-based photographer

One comment

  1. Once I saw a picture on a magazine that had this girl dressed in a prom gown, but she was soaking wet. Somehow it stroke me as great image for a horror story and I ended up writing a story about her. It all began with the questions, why is she wet? why is she scary? After finishing it I saw some Cinderella-like plot points and added some details like a lost shoe that made a lot of sense and grounded the story’s realism. I showed the story to a friend and he said it remembered him “The Tell-Tale heart”. It also wonders me how we read stories and our brains mashes them, sometimes willingly, sometimes unconsciously, to make the new stories we write.

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