Cooper was hopelessly blocked.
Try as he might, he could not figure out any way to flesh out his story’s character.
He was so deeply enmeshed in staring at the pixels that formed the blank whiteness of his computer screen that he didn’t even hear the tiny voice whisper “name her Gretchen.”
Gretchen. Of course. What a perfect name, Cooper thought, and when he felt a tickle on his earlobe and absently reached over to brush it off, he jumped when the cockroach tumbled off his shoulder. Before he could do anything else, however, the roach scrambled back to its former spot, and whispered “make her blonde.”
And this too was perfect. So was the suggestion to make her taller than average, which he heard as a whisper in his other ear.
Other roaches joined the two that stood on his right and left shoulder, and as they did his mind filled not just with images that made Gretchen come into focus, but her husband Dwight as well. Each time Cooper exhaled, more roaches, drawn, as all roaches are, by the carbon dioxide, came out of their hiding places to help Gretchen and Dwight’s daughter Leona leap off the page.
Dozens of them crawled into his mouth, and he could hear the voices whispering for him to bite down and chew. And as the warm, gelatinous insides slid down his throat, he could feel more ideas work their way to his head. Yes, he thought, they were right; she should wear a polka dot dress, because it recalled the room in which she grew up, and symbolized her attempts to recapture the energy and joy of her childhood.
He went to the local convenience store and returned with armloads of candy, which he unwrapped and spread on the floor. He did this every day, and soon, his house was full of these crawling, vibrant ideas, pieces of narrative that whispered to him as he waded through them, hip deep in plot points and character arcs. He scooped up handfuls of them and stuffed them into his mouth, feeling new explosions of symbolism and theme burst from their shells and slither down his throat.
And as he felt his skin harden and the extra legs sprout from his chest and the feelers extend from his forehead, he opened his front door and waves of inspiration flowed out of the house, eager to infest every other dwelling with inspiration until it came up to everyone’s neck.