Simon Wood’s “Parental Guidance” appears in the upcoming Comet Press dark crime anthology “The Death Panel.” The story is about a man who makes the decision to take control of his life and family, by any means necessary. Here is Mr. Wood’s inspiration for this chilling and very disturbing story. You’ll never look at credit card ads the same way again… Visit his website at www.simonwood.net
by Simon Wood
Where do you get your ideas from? It’s a familiar question I’m asked. Literally anything can inspire a story—an overheard conversation, a news story, an offhand remark, a bad cheeseburger—I mean it, anything can spur me on. With Parental Guidance, it was a TV advertisement. It just goes to show that TV advertising works—just not the way the advertiser hoped.
The ad was for credit consolidation. It was one of those cheesy, homemade ads that do the product or service being pimped no favors. The ad was simple. A family, consisting of husband, wife, and two kids, sat in front of the camera while the father spoke about how his life was out of control because of credit debt until he turned it all around thanks to blah-blah credit counseling. The ad ended with the father looking into the camera and saying, “I took control and my life has never been better.”
Instead of this parting line instilling inspiration in me to do likewise, it gave me the chills. It was an odd line that didn’t quite jive with the ad. My not so peaceful, easy feeling was enhanced by the actor’s delivery. It bordered on sinister, like there was something more to his life changing turnaround than credit consolidation and if we were curious enough to ask, he’d cut us in on the real secret. It was as if the ad cut him off short and his next sentence would have been, “Yeah, yeah, credit consolidators can solve some of your problems, but sometimes you have to get your hands dirty if you want real results.”
The story came to me before the ad break ended. I wanted a tarnished tale about what it means to keep up with not only the Joneses but the world in general, and that success under harsh circumstances isn’t reliant on extreme violence or anger, but an unflinching dedication to a course of action. But above all, I wanted to darken Parental Guidance with the uneasy sentiment I felt after hearing the father’s last sentence.