Ducking the Unexpected in Writing by Mae Clair

They arrived unannounced, without fanfare, and made themselves at home. I wasn’t expecting guests that day, much less the pair of ducks that settled in my back yard.

I’m not in a neighborhood that attracts waterfowl. I live in a small community of approximately 25 homes that is surrounded by farmland. In the rear, my home backs up to a church. When my husband and I originally bought the house, that plot of ground was comprised of acres of fertile crops. The local farmer had a habit of plowing at night using the headlights on his tractor. I never did figure out that routine, except maybe it had something to do with moon phases.

But back to my unexpected guests. Since we’ve lived here, we’ve had an assortment of critters stroll by at one time or another. Like most semi-rural communities, we have our share of squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, skunks, ground hogs and hawks. We’ve also had deer, fox, pheasant, turkey vultures and even a colorful peacock. But we’ve never had ducks.

So it was a surprise to look out the back door and see this.


I immediately started wondering where they came from, how they ended up there and what their plans were. It’s the same way my mind works when I conjure up characters. Of course the drake (hero) was courting the female (heroine). She appeared to be standoffish, so maybe he’d ticked her off by eying up some floosy hen. Or maybe he’d been wheedling for a roll in the pond (or my back yard) and she wasn’t in the mood.

On the other hand she might have been running from some vindictive mallard and our hero flew in to protect her, the duck in shining armor. Maybe they were brother and sister or friends from childhood, embroiled in a mystery that had them on the run. Could they be clones escaping their creators or doppelgangers fleeing the sorcerer who’d conjured them into existence?  Maybe they’d time-warped from another dimension and mistakenly arrived in my yard when they should have landed somewhere else.

As I was busy spinning possibilities, hubby and I left and hit the grocery store. When we came back, loaded down with seafood, 99% lean ground turkey, broccoli, chips. Greek yogurt and coffee (the essentials in life), we spied the ducks three doors down across the street. They’d separated with the male in the front yard and the female on the other side of the driveway. A lover’s spat?

I never did discover the answer as it was time to unload the groceries and cart them inside. If I want an ending, I’ll have to write one…or at the very least, take some of those ideas and spin them into a story for later.

I certainly didn’t expect to find character inspiration in a pair of ducks that materialized in my back yard, but that’s the unexpected. A writer’s paradise.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you ever stumble over character and/or story ideas where you least expect them?

20 thoughts on “Ducking the Unexpected in Writing by Mae Clair

  1. That’s funny about the nighttime farming.
    You’re the second blogger I’ve seen this week post a pic of ducks in their garden. Must be the season. 🙂 I said to the other person they’d make a tasty dinner!


    • I think I’d skip the dinner thing, LOL! I have had really good grouse and pheasant but I understand duck meat is dark and I won’t even eat dark-meat chicken or turkey!

      I haven’t seen these two (or any other ducks) since their one day appearance. My guess is they actually found a yard with water!

      And strange as it may seem, I kind of miss that night-time plowing. It was just so…odd!


  2. Mae, you crack me up! I love this post. The duck in shining armor and floozy hen are wonderful. LOL My mind works the same way. I’m like a toddler, always asking “Why?” whenever I see something like that. I need to turn it into a story for some reason. Maybe it’s easier for my brain to store it away if it’s in that form. LOL But it’s always fun to see what happens. 🙂


    • I love your comparison about the toddler. That’s me too, constantly curious, constantly spinning possibilities. Where would the world be without wondering….and writers! 🙂


  3. I had to laugh over this one…yes I did…and I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds inspiration in the most unlikely places…Cheers to your ducks!


  4. I love the comparisons from the ducks to characters, Mae. I’ve watched ducks and geese around our parks and wondered about the protectiveness of the males. It certainly conjured up ideas for romance in my brain. I typically find my inspiration from behavior I see around me. But occasionally, a stray conversation will trigger my imagination. Because of something I overheard while in Florida, I have an alligator story brewing in the back of my mind.


    • I’m intrigued by the alligator story, Stanalei. How cool that it bloomed from a snippet of stray conversation. I think it’s amazing how writers can take something trivial and spin it into a complex web.

      Noting behavior is also another good source. I actually need to visit that more often for inspiration!


  5. Enjoyed your post – made me laugh and you surely do have a vivid imagination. I’ve always wanted geese in the yard – yeah I know they’re not the most sociable and make a mess – but still. We live far enough from the river so rarely have web footed visitors. My peer learning building regularly receives geese honking and strutting about and I’ve taken several pics and vids of them. Unfortunately the school is moving so I fear no feathered creatures at the new place in September


    • I think I would enjoy watching geese from a distance, but not so much up close. My brother-in-law used to live along a river and all of the houses there were inundated with them. I remember hearing that once they have goslings somewhere they will return to that place every year.

      Hope you still get to film some waterfowl, Sue. And yeah my imagination tends to run wild. Hubs and I were just talking about that a few minutes ago after seeing a clip about UFO’s. The discussion was about the difference between dreamers and realists. I’m definetly the former, LOL!


  6. Hahaha!!! You have such a great imagination, Mae! I love it! These characters are very common to my backyard this time of year. In fact, they can be found wading in my pool almost every morning 🙂 I don’t mind so much when the tarp is still on, but not so cool when it’s a working swimming pool 🙂 Once superdog is set free, however, they take to the skies to visit the neighbors 🙂


  7. Okay now that is a picture, L.J! Ducks wading in your pool? No, I don’t think I would like that either :). I bet superdog enjoys chasing them off though! He is such a cool superdog!!


    • Sheri, I never thought about him having a day job, but I bet you’re right. That certainly makes sense. Strange as it seems, I kind of liked that night-time plowing!


  8. Inspiration has a habit of striking at the most inopportune times. Usually it’s when I’m physically involved in some activity and my mind can wander a bit.


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