Readers always want to know what inspires our crime fiction. Turns out there are lots of things that happen IRL (in real life) that would be perfect book fodder, but no one would believe them without a lot of deep massage. A few examples follow.
Molly MacRae: For me, the best and most irritating instances of “stranger than fiction” come from human interest stories and obituaries in the local paper. They’re the best because they’re delightful and preposterous and perfect. They’re irritating because I can’t use them. What am I talking about? The names. It’s the names! Sometimes they’re too delightful, preposterous, and perfect. They’re names so unlikely that I can’t possibly give them, exactly as they are, to my characters. If I do, readers will think I’m trying too hard to be entertaining or outré. It’s maddening. I can’t give you examples, either, because these are real people who are living (or did up until recently) in my area. Not that any of them will read this post, but it wouldn’t be right. But I keep a list of the names. One of my brothers sends me names, too. And sometimes I help myself to a first or last name for a character.
And now you can, too! Here’s a fun chart with some of the real first and last names from my lists. They’re mixed up to protect the innocent (and some of the new combinations are inadvertently delightful, preposterous, and perfect). If you’re brave enough, go ahead and pick and choose from among them to give your own characters a bit of panache.
Heather Weidner: My first publishing credit was a short story in a Sisters in Crime Anthology (the Virginia is for Mysteries series). I had a lady contact me and tell me she loved the story, and that her husband had the same name as one of the villains. She brought him to one of the book signings, so we could meet each other. This was the one and only time that I met someone who shared the same name as one of my characters.
Readers, tell us about your truth is stranger than fiction experience.