For example this source, which I've not seen mentioned elsewhere.
Consider how many older mystery novels featured characters reading personal ads in newspapers. In fact, one such ad, an appeal for participants in a psychic fair to be held in St Louis, inspired a short story I wrote a few years back. In fictional ads, scams abounded. Villains used them to communicate in code with their cohorts, innocents employed them when seeking lost personal items, detectives negotiated with criminals or tracked miscreants' movements through them. These days the easiest place to find this type of personal ad so useful for sparking plots is by reading missing connections posts on Craigslist. Here are a few examples copied verbatim that suggest fruitful lines of thought, culled from Craigslists around the country this afternoon.
Happy birthday to the girl with two names...
and a thousand lies. So much more I could say, so much more I'd like to say - a castle made of words, indeed - but I will hold myself to this: I hope you're having a lovely day. And I hope you're at peace.
There's an entire plot right there! A girl with two names accused of being a liar, a poster who could reveal a great deal about her if inclined, and a hint of turmoil in the girl's life.
Monday in park (60660)
We parked next to each other, both married. Beard
Both of them married and one seeking the other? This is the type of ad suggesting all manner of messy relationship trouble waiting in the wings. No doubt it will all end in tears, if not divorce court. What twists and turns can the writer provide on the way there?
Looking for a lost friend $$ paid for leads to find her (Queens Woodside surrounding areas)
Hi I'm looking for a long lost friend been looking for years and still think of her everyday and hope life has treated her better then it was she was a dancer on queens Blvd mid 1990s I'm looking for anyone that worked in this field specifically at naked city that might know her cash paid to help me reconnect$$$$
A sad ad, suggesting life did not treat the dancer too well. What happened to their friendship? Why is the poster still seeking her years after losing touch? A good friend indeed -- or perhaps one with an axe to grind?
You drank coffee all day
And then he wiped the street with you. And then me. Message me if that mess you were with isn't too serious. You were wearing a badge of honor. I was wearing ..
How was it the person sought was awarded a badge of honor (and what is it to begin with?) Who was the man who wiped the street with (we assume) her? It appears the poster was also involved in the dust-up. What was that all about?
Scooter call your grandma! (Palm Beach Florida)
I got a new phone number in February and I keep getting phone calls from people looking for someone named Scooter! Some people are very angry that you have not called them to say you changed your number and I believe one of them is your grandmother! She has called many times. She seems worried and she told me that she was going to take your phone number out of her phone and not bother me anymore! You better be dead if you ain't calling your grandma! Scooter what's your problem? Get it together man! #findscooter
What happened to Scooter is the immediate question, and after that who are these people constantly looking for him and why? Since he has not been in touch with his grandmother, it certainly sounds suspicious!
So there you have it. May similar searches be fruitful for you!
Mary Reed and Eric Mayer co-write the John, Lord Chamberlain, Byzantine mystery series, set in and around the court of Justinian and Theodora. Under the transparent pen name of Eric Reed, they also co-author of the Grace Baxter novels, set in WWII England. Publishers Weekly awarded a starred review to An Empire For Ravens, the 12th Lord Chamberlain novel, which will be published in October 2018. Their website at http:/home.earthlink.net/~maywrite/ features among other content personal essays, a bibliography, and growing libraries of links to free e-texts of classic and Golden Age mysteries, ghost stories, and tales of the supernatural as well as the opportunity to sign up for their newsletter Orphan Scrivener, issued every two months. Or Equivalent Experience, a short ghost story inspired by the advertisement mentioned, may be read at