If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

May Interviews

5/5 Lynn Calhoon, Murder 101
5/12 Annette Dashofy, Death By Equine
5/19 Krista Davis, The Diva Serves Forbidden Fruit
5/25 Debra Goldstein, Four Cuts Too Many

Saturday WWK Bloggers

5/1 V. M. Burns
5/8 Jennifer Chow
5/22 Kait Carson

Guest Blogs

5/15 M. K. Scott


E. B. Davis's "The Pearl Necklace" will appear in the new SinC Guppy anthology The Fish That Got Away to be released in July by Wildside Press. The anthology was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Paula Gail Benson's monologue "Beloved Husband," from the perspective of Norton Baskin the second husband of Marjorie Kinan Rawlings (who wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek), appears in the Red Penguin Collection's An Empty Stage (released March 28, 2021).

Martha Reed's "Death by GPS" will appear in the Spring 2021 issue of Suspense Magazine, which will be released in the second week of April. Congratulations, Martha!

Susan Van Kirk has a new audiobook, A Death at Tippitt Pond, that will be released this month. Marry in Haste will be released in May by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, as will Death Takes No Bribes in September. Congratulations, Susan.

Congratulations to Martha Reed. Her short story, "The Honor Thief" was chosen for the 2021 Bouchercon Anthology, This Time For Sure. Hank Phillippi Ryan will edit the volume, which will be released in August at the time of the convention.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Killer Weeds," appears in the January 20 edition of Texas Gardener's Seeds: From Our Garden to Yours. Congratulations, Margaret, who, if you follow Facebook know, is a superb gardener herself!

Congratulations to Jennifer J. Chow for garnering a 2021 Lefty Nomination for Best Humorous Mystery Novel. We're crossing our fingers for Jennifer!

Congratulations to Paula Gail Benson whose "Reputation or Soul" has been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.

KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!

Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Finding Fiction in the Strangest Truth

They say truth is stranger than fiction.

Which is both annoying and wonderful when your job is to come up with fake crimes.

Writing mysteries is pretty much like hoping to show up to the world’s largest prom without the same dress/hair/shoes/makeup as any other girl there. There’s plenty of personalization involved, but even if you create everything from scratch, chances are that someone next door or three states over has come up with some aspect, large or small, that’s similar if not totally the same to your brilliant idea.

So, even though you’ve got all sorts of moving parts: murder, motivation, victim, criminal, setting, plot, secondary plot and characters, etc., it’s still hard to do something that’s totally not been done before.

Which is why I’m going to tell you to find inspiration in something that has been done before.

Something in real life.

For a long time, I’ve kept a file of true-life horrible things that happen. And bits and pieces of those crimes might show up in my stories someday, whether I plan for them to be there or not. I figure, even if these ideas just stay in my file for years, at least reading about those crimes has taught me something about how murders are committed or investigated or both. And those are two things that we all need to not only get our fictional murders correct, but also understand how to create a satisfying conclusion to them.

This week, I added the following story to my file. It’s the tale of a husband and wife, each of whom shot and killed their families out west before marrying and moving to the Missouri Ozarks. For more than 30 years, both got away with the crimes. Until the present day, when their murderous pasts finally caught up with them — shocking family, friends, and neighbors. (It also shocked fellow blogger Warren Bull, who also mentioned this same story this week.)

It’s real life, but can’t you just see the whole thing unfolding beautifully in a mystery or thriller? The 
Horrible Secrets of Alice and Gerald: Book 1.

So, though you can think of something totally fresh and new, it doesn’t hurt to keep tabs on those real-life stories that are just so strange they might make for great fiction. And hey, shows like Law & Order use real-life crimes as the basis for their episodes all the time, so why can’t you?

What’s the best true-life story you’ve heard that might make a great mystery?


E. B. Davis said...

One year, I read a Darwin Award. The event happened where I based my WIP. Newly weds were honeymooning in Buxton, NC, on Hatteras Island. As usual, it was windy. The man decided to dig a hole to sit in so as to be out of the wind. The sand collapsed around him. No one could dig him out. They called in a backhoe, but of course by that time, the man had died. It set up a premise for me, upon which I based a short, and then a novel.

Warren Bull said...

As you mentioned, in my blog on Friday I talked about several real events that became the basis for my writing.

Jim Jackson said...

I generally write about financial crimes. I have a Google alert on “financial crimes,” which has provided interesting background reading. So far, the unusual crimes I have invented haven’t appeared in the papers; shooting someone because you hate them or because there is a drug war don’t count. Probably I’m safe because my crimes often involve the murder of large groups of people – and other than the all-too-often-story of shooters killing many people at a school or work place, which happens way too often, other kinds of mass killings do not occur as often.

I hope reality doesn't catch up to my fiction.

~ Jim

Jim Jackson said...

EB - I remember your story. Delightful that your inspiration came about from a Darwin award. Very clever!

~ Jim

Kara Cerise said...

My guess is that the story of Alice and Gerald will become a movie or at least the inspiration for several TV crime/drama episodes.

When I read about unusual real-life murders that happened in the past, like the murders during the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, I try to imagine them set in the present. Or, I might use a current murder and set it in the past.

Linda Rodriguez said...

I like Kara's idea of setting a current crime in the past or a historical crime in the present. I have been inspired for many crimes in my books by events that happened in real life at universities in the Midwest in the past fifty years, but I change them to be unrecognizable.

Unknown said...

Wow. I guess fences don't make good neighbors.

Sarah Henning said...

Ooh, all of these examples are so good! Side note: Kara, have you read "Devil in the White City"??? It's all about those murders and it's fantastic.

Shari Randall said...

I love your definition of mystery writing - your job is to come up with fake crimes!
I have to admit I've been thinking about a man in Virginia who has robbed the same bank branch SIX times. And he doesn't wear a disguise! How on earth does he do it? I am hoping he is captured so we can learn his secret....

Gloria Alden said...

Shari, I think I read about that bank robber, or another like him once upon a time. I think he was rather nondescript with nothing that made him stand out.

I get a lot of my ideas just from reading the newspaper. If I think it's a crime I can use, I clip it out and save it. Anything that involves mass murders or a serial murderer, I won't use.

Kara Cerise said...

Sarah, I did read Devil in the White City. I thought it was scary, creepy, and fascinating. I heard a theory that the murderer, H.H. Holmes, was also Jack the Ripper because he was traveling outside of the U.S. at the time of those murders. Who knows?