Writing Exercise: What Would You Do If You Won the Lottery?

I’ve got powerball fever. The jackpot is well over 800 million dollars—that’s clams, smackers, duckets. Me: I never play the numbers. Every once in a while for a birthday, I’ll buy some scratchers on a lark. But everybody’s got their eyes on the prize right now, especially in this time of extended recession. So this morning, I made breakfast—a calzone–and walked down to the liquor store, while that sucker was cooling.

At the liquor store, there were two women paying for a pack of cigarettes in loose change. “It’s up to 800 million dollars now, right?”
“I don’t know. It changes by the hour,” said the husky Armenian gentleman behind the counter. “You can check it up on your iphone.”
“I don’t have an iphone. That’s what I’d get first. An iphone.”

I bought three chances–three sets of random numbers–at two bucks a piece. Then, I went home and discussed a future with 800 millions dollars in hand with my wife as we munched on calzones with fork and knife.
“The first thing I’d do is leave this neighborhood. As soon as everybody here found out that we have money, we’d be sitting ducks.” That’s true. Our house is quaint and charming—a craftsman—but a security risk. “Then, I’d move to a better neighborhood.”
“I’d move to the ocean—maybe Santa Monica.” I was born by the ocean and grew up by the ocean.  For a brief part of a long distant childhood, I was a surfer. It’s only as an adult that I told myself that I hated the Westside of Los Angeles—the ocean side.  It was filled with shallow superficial people who snorted coke on their dining room tables and abused their maids.  But now, confronted with all this imaginary wealth, I knew that I would move back to the rich douchey side of town in a heartbeat. I am such a sell-out.
My wife had grander plans: “I’d buy a house in San Francisco, New York, Hawaii, Paris.”

Hawaii House
“What about Chicago?”
“Fuck Chicago.”
“Yeah, fuck Chicago.”
“Then, I’d buy a house for my parents.”
That’s when I started to worry. If she started throwing money around like that, we would soon be bankrupt. People would ask for more and she would not be able to stop herself. And what about all these houses. We would have to hire somebody to take care of them when we were not there and the cost would be prohibitive. What if those people stole from us? Or threw wild parties?
“I’d hire a management agency,” she said calmly, resolutely.
“You know that money doesn’t come to you in one lump sum. It comes in installments.

You can’t just throw away the money like that.”
“Well, what would you do.”
“I would buy a new car. But not a douchey one like those 700 series BMW’s every creep drives in LA. I would buy a low-key car but have it fully loaded—maybe a Tesla or a Volvo but a special edition.”

We finished our meal by filling out the back of our lottery ticket with both our names. Then, we took pictures of it alongside our i.d.’s, just in case somebody broke into our house and stole it. That way: we would have proof that the ticket was ours when they tried to cash it in.
So here is the exercise—an exercise in character development: Identify a character you are having a hard time getting a sense of. Have her win the goddam-mother-loving-finger-licking lottery. And try to have her imagine what she would do.
The sky’s the limit with this exercise and the crazier the better. People become other people when they win their money. But in becoming other people, they are also expressing the true essence of who they are. Did you know one of the most recent lottery jackpot winners did with her 188 million dollars? She forked over 12 million to bail out her boyfriend who was in jail on drug and weapons charges. Sheesh.

2 thoughts on “Writing Exercise: What Would You Do If You Won the Lottery?

  1. As I comment, Khanh, the jackpot’s grown to $900 million. That’s outside the everyday comprehension of a lot of people. It’s amazing; it really is. And I think that contemplating what you’d really – no, really – do with that much money is an interesting exercise. Like you, I don’t usually buy lottery tickets. But I did this time. I have no illusions that I would actually win. But it’s really fun to pretend and dream. And it wasn’t expensive entertainment.

    • Well, I tried again, Margot. The jackpot went up to 1.5 billion and this time I bought one single powerball ticket. I am now a two time loser and a sucker of the highest order. But at least I’ll have the memories of that moment when just about anything was possible!

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