Quite simply anything and everything.
I have a file in which I keep lists of names: male christian names, female christian names, surnames. Occasionally I look at these lists and start to pair a christian name with a surname. Like ‘Morgan Cowley’ – just to pick two at random. And I can’t help but start to wonder about this ‘new’ person: what are they like? what do they do? what do they want? how satisfactory is their life?
And I want to create them, write about them, ‘inhabit’ them.
It is a vicarious indulgence, of course; but it can also be the launchpad for a short story and beyond.
Each name, each ‘person’ is unique, waiting for the lighting of the blue touch-paper. And knowing what these characters give me, I can only ever hope to do them justice…