Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The prompt this week was a terrific one.  We were to use the above painting (Gray and Gold) as an inspiration and setting for our story.  When I saw this, it brought to mind potentially life-altering decisions.  Do you head toward the storm or try to keep it on the side-lines?  Decisions, decisions...  Please enjoy.


So, here I am at a crossroad--literally.  I was told if I go to the left, I would arrive at a lovely little village filled with quaint shops and folks with old-world values.  If I should choose to follow the road to the right, a charming Bed and Breakfast would provide me a warm meal and an even warmer bed for the night.  The road straight before me would lead me back to the highway I came in on, and beyond, my townhouse in the city, where I live.  Alone.  My huge, expensive, and extremely well-furnished, private corner of Hell.  Choices.  Always.  Choices.

Life had stacked the deck for me from the first hand dealt.  At the age of 3 months, I had been left on the front steps of a church, along with a note asking that I be cared for.  A reasonable enough request, however, instead of being turned over to a reputable adoption agency for placement, I was sold to the highest bidder.  The church needed a new building in order to expand their grade school and the diocese was financially strapped.  I suppose in some cases, the end may justify the means.

This path was chosen for me, and it wasn’t exactly a destructive one.  I was never physically or emotionally abused by the family that took me in as their own, but I was never looked upon as a person.  From the time I was brought into their home, I was regarded as a commodity--a trophy, an abandoned street urchin to parade in front of their peers, a charity case to write off on their quarterly tax obligations.  I was dressed in the best clothes, educated at the best schools and given a trust fund for life once I reached the age where I could no longer be considered cute.  The money wasn’t to help sustain me while I sought employment.  It was to insure I’d never look back, and most importantly, never come back.  Pushed down another path, but going forward, the choices would become solely mine.

It never ceases to amaze me what money can buy.  Things, places, even friends, certainly, but what ended up being most valuable to me was information.  I needed to find my biological mother who left me on those steps and set in motion the events that would guarantee for me a life filled with loss, emptiness, and a level of self-esteem that tops out at less than zero.  Oddly, the basket that held me, along with some items of clothing, led right back to her front door.  At least, the front door she hid behind at the time.  From there, though, it was simple to trace her forward.

Wealthy and widowed, she owned and operated a large farm that had been her husband’s lifelong dream.  After his death from a long illness, she upgraded all the equipment and automated the operations and turned the property into an even more profitable enterprise.  Cattle, cows, chickens, eggs, an apple orchard, and fields of vegetables were just a few of its product lines.  I learned that she had done quite well for herself.  As I came to that proverbial fork in the road--let bygones be bygones or confront the heartless bitch, my choice was easy.

I had all the documentation necessary to prove who I was, but it being a drive of over seven hours to her current front door, I chose the fork in the road that eliminated the element of surprise.  It wasn’t that I wanted to warn her I was on my way so that I could ease my way back into her life.  It was only that I needed to make sure the whore was home so I would not have wasted an entire day on the trip.  In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m no trust fund slacker.  I have obligations.  Most of that money remains, and keeps growing, since I am a partner in one of the city’s most prestigious corporate law firms.  You see, in spite of my mommy dumping me as an infant, I have become an accomplished and well respected individual.  I spend thousands a month on therapy and anti-anxiety medication, but at least I can support myself.

Her name is Elena, and she is currently 42 years old, 14 years old than me.  I don’t need a $300.00 an hour PI to clue me in on how she spent her youth.  Funny, how she didn’t seem overwhelmed or terribly surprised to hear from me--the daughter she threw out.  She gave me directions to the main house and said she’d have tea ready.  Gee, now I’m tingly all over.  She’ll have tea ready.  I’m sure her maid will serve it along with some scones too, maybe.  I just can’t wait to shove me right down her cheerful, well-adjusted, throat.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I’ve been here now for almost four hours.  Helluva woman.  Strong and honest.  The tea was very hot and wonderfully sweet.  It was a special blend, Elena told me, that her husband introduced her to when they were first married.  No scones though--just a warm homemade coffeecake.  We served ourselves, by the way--maid’s day off.

Her father had died in prison of some untreatable disease, and her mother pimped her out to keep the liquor cabinet full and to make ends meet.  When she became pregnant, her mother told her to go upstairs and the neighbor lady would give her a drink and it would all be over by morning.  That had been her first fork in the road, and she chose to run away and have me.  Back then, there weren’t a lot of places for her to get help and when the going got really tough, she decided the best thing would be to walk away.  She knew the church people would find me a home, and she’d be able to make some kind of future for herself if she was on her own.

She made no excuses, and didn’t try to sanctify herself by saying she did it for me.  She made it very clear that her life went forward much more smoothly without the chain of a baby around her neck.  She had been happily married, and now, as a widow, was devoting her life to fulfilling her husband’s desire of bringing beauty into the world and sharing the benefits of this good land.

She offered me no apologies and hugs were obviously out of the question.  But, she did tell me to go to the crossroad and if I’d like to stay the night, to take the road to the right.  She’d meet me in the morning at Belson’s Bed and Breakfast for coffee and the best oatmeal in the county, and then we’d cross back over and browse the antique shops in the village and maybe have lunch at one of the inns.  She told me she had the time.

So, now we come back around, and here I sit at probably the most important crossroad of my life.  Storm clouds are brewing, and if I decide to go back to the city, I need to head out soon so I can try to move forward with my life and my career.  If I decide to stay, then I’d be able to bury myself under one of those delightful handmade comforters in a four-poster Bed and Breakfasts offer, and spend the following day in the company of my honest-to-God real mother.  Of course, I could always bypass any further contact with that woman and head into town on my own and pick up a few knick-knacks for my mantel that I can show off at my next partners’ cocktail party.  Choices.  Always.  Choices…

Friday, September 21, 2012


On the Flash Fiction Friday site, our community writing project, Cycle 95 was my turn to come up with a prompt.  It was titled Sorry, Wrong Number (to pay homage to that noir classic), and the setting was an isolated cabin where the character accidentally overhears a telephone call.  The character must then decide what to do about the call, if anything, and the story was to let us know how it all turned out.  The turnout was fantastic, with tales of calls misdirected and the consequences of not keeping our ears to ourselves.

One of the submitted stories, A Little R and R by Lewis Peters, filled my head with question after question all the way through and way beyond.  That was not because there was anything incomplete about it though.  The reason the sparks went off in my head was because his story was a treasure trove of psychological twists and turns, and hints and nuances, and all things sinister.

In my comments on his blog, which you can find here, I posted a few of my questions, and Lewis responded by offering me the opportunity to have a go at taking this story forward by writing Chapter Two, which appears below.  I cannot begin to thank Lewis enough for permitting me to share his characters and move his story on further.

I'm going to put in the link for what is now Chapter One.  I realize I'm showing my age here, but let's look at this like the chapter books of old; only this time, you get to read two chapters during the same sitting.  No waiting a week or so until the next issue came out and then standing in line at the drug store...  Sorry.  That really took me back.  Anyhow, just click on over to Lewis' blog to read Chapter One, and then click back over here for Chapter Two.  I'd love to know what you think of my contribution, and I know Lewis would love your comments too.  After all, he started it!  Alright, let's get reading.




I learned the identity of the guy whose body was being wheeled out of the cabin--a mope by the name of Tommy Sanderski, aka Slick.  I also found out that not only had he been shot in the back of the head, but he was most likely kneeling when he was shot.  Apparently, Tommy’s hands were tied behind his back with some kind of wire and he was laying on his side when he was found.  To me, that reeks of execution.  Problem is, there’s a hell of a lot more to it.

The cabin was owned by a couple from somewhere in the States; Wisconsin, I think.  It’s not really important since they weren’t currently staying in it.  This ex-con who was murdered in their cozy little getaway was a wannabe heavy-duty gangster, wannabe big-time assassin, wannabe pretty much anything, except dead.  The lovely dairy farm couple never heard of him, but the police certainly had.

Slick’s record was a mile and a half long, but mostly petty stuff.  Whatever rank in the criminal hierarchy he had designs on, he never made it beyond a few bait-and-switch scams and a long list of B&E’s.  Some of what he made off with ended up in various pawn shops, but oddly, he kept a lot of it.  Having a flat filled with stolen goods didn’t make him the brightest bulb in the marquis, but what could he have gotten himself involved with that earned him a bullet in the brain?  Why was he there in the first place and did he trash the cabin?  Or did Tommy’s killer do that to make it look like a burglary?  I need another drink.

I got all these details from George.  He got all the bits and pieces from his buddies on the force, and made certain to share with me a minute by minute itinerary of this brutal event.  I’m hoping that in my confusion and last night’s intense panic that I’m misreading his manner.  His description of the alleged circumstances of the murder and the condition of the victim seemed to fill him with a kind of dark delight.  But, that’s just crazy.  Isn’t it?

Once the body had been removed, the scene and area surrounding the cabin had been photographed, and any odds and ends had been bagged and tagged, George drove me back to his cabin.  I was wet and tired and anxious to clean up and get into some dry clothes, but I didn’t feel much like talking, unlike my brother.  George went on and on about how they had found my rental car half buried in mud and leaves; although, he told me not to worry about it.  He’d already arranged for it to be pulled out, towed, cleaned and returned.  George’s OCD strikes again.  Nothing left untended.

George headed for the kitchen to fix us some breakfast.  Roughing it has never been for me, but thank God for the wood stove.  I headed for the shower.  Sure hope there’s at least some warm water left.  Ten million questions were running through my mind.  Over bacon, eggs and coffee, George could probably answer most of them.  That possibility is what scared me the most.

I’ve always been able to break things down and see each part clearly.  I can generally see through people who are trying to snow me too.  I became a PI because I love to solve puzzles.  I handle mostly missing persons cases and I do pretty well finding them.  Most of the time though, they’ve gone missing and do not want to be found, but that’s a whole other story.  Once I find them for my clients, my job is done.  What’s going on now though?  This is going to take some serious figuring.

Let’s start with the phone call.  Who was the woman?  She knew about everything:  me, the cabin, and the package.  She also knows that I overheard some part, or all, of her conversation with Danny.  She wasn’t pleased.  Which leads us to Danny, and here is where it stops being interesting and crosses that line into bizarre.  Danny also knew about the package, about me being there alone, and he didn’t sound all too concerned about removing me from the equation if I got in his way.  Here’s where it gets hinky.

George works with Danny in the Coast Guard.  Well, they don’t exactly work together, but they met while enlisting, and shared the first part of their training.  Danny ended up as a Gunner’s Mate and George as an Operations Specialist.  George’s compulsive attention to detail and organization made this a perfect fit for him.  Danny liked weapons--big, small, and in between, and found his niche there.  They’ve been friends all these years, and hook up to catch up when they can.  So, where do I fit in with George and Danny?  Nowhere, and that’s what’s got me freaked..

I met Danny years ago when he came by to pick George up to go to some party.  I was dropping off some of my stuff to store at George’s since my apartment had been vandalized.  In my business, I’ve been known to piss off some people here and there.  Anyway, that was one.  The only other time that I ran across Danny was in a diner close to his place.  I was working a case out that way and stopped in for a burger and a beer and Danny was on his way out.  He made one of those phony salute gestures, flashed me a big smile and left.  Since then, George has told me stories about he and Danny and has shown me photos of he and Danny.  As far as I’m concerned, that hardly makes us lifelong buds.  So, why was he suddenly so interested in my welfare?

Another piece to this twisted puzzle is Janine.  I know about her, sort of, but we‘ve never met.  George has mentioned her from time to time, about how he will be going to so and so with Danny and Janine or what a great show he saw with Danny and Janine.  Trying to get a rise out him, which I enjoy doing, I asked him if he ever felt like a third wheel with those two.  Got a rise alright--George went ballistic.  In between the growling and the spitting, I picked up that Danny and Janine were not a couple, in the ‘couple’ sense.  She was sometimes with Danny, and he was sometimes with her, and they were sometimes with George.  It’s a wonder I don’t already talk to myself.

Judging by George’s reaction, I never brought the matter up again.  He ended his tirade, and then behaved as if nothing had happened.  At the time, I convinced myself it may have been some classified operation nonsense.  It’s amazing how our mind’s defenses come into play.  Still, what if the woman on the phone was Janine?  What would her connection to the drugs be?  I just remembered that she knows I was on the line.  Does that concern me?  You betcha.

I can smell the bacon, and I can hear George talking to someone.  Last night, the phone was dead, and cell service is a joke here in these woods.  Maybe Danny’s turned up.  It‘s quiet now.  Time to make my grand entrance and visually sweep the place.  Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.  Famous last words…

“So, what’s for breakfast?  I’m starving.  By the way, who’s here?  And, has Danny made it back yet?”

George shot me a look like I’d just grown two-inch fangs and I was headed straight for his jugular.  In my life, I’ve never seen fear on my brother.

“What are you talking about?  What do you mean, who’s here?  We’re here.  You’re losing it, Frank.  All that roaming around in the woods has made you twitchy.“

He seemed to need to catch his breath as he turned toward the stove.

“Sit down and eat.  We’ve got bacon, sausage, eggs, toast and…, and…, uh…, jelly.  We’ve got strawberry jelly.  Coffee.  And, we’ve got coffee.”

I could see that his hands were shaking as he served the meal.  We ate in silence.  It seemed only right.

George insisted on cleaning up the kitchen.  He hadn’t said a word since announcing the menu.  Whatever was happening here was weighing very heavy on him.  I wanted so badly to pull down the panel, spread out the bags of coke and demand an explanation.  In my gut, I know he’s involved somehow.  But, is he involved in murder as well?  Does he know that I know?  Can he tell the dope’s been messed with?  Am I to be next on my knees with my hands tied behind my back?  Will my own brother be pulling the trigger?  I grabbed a tumbler and headed for the Jack.

“Well, it looks like you’ve got the rest of the week planned out, huh, Frank?  Going to spend it at the bottom of a bottle?”  George was laughing now.  I fail to see the humor.

“What are you talking about--the rest of the week?  You think I’m going to stay here after all that’s happened?”  I didn’t like the fact that I was beginning to sound like a whiny little girl.

“After what has happened?  Nothing has happened here, Frank.  What’s his name was killed miles from here.  Obviously tried to cross up the wrong person and they took him out.  Nothing else is going to happen.  That is, unless you decide to go all Daniel Boone again.  What the hell were you doing out there in the dark, in that storm, wandering around in circles anyway?”

How did George know I’d gone around in circles?  I wasn’t sure how I should answer that.

“I thought I heard something, and I wanted to check it out.  It was stupid, I know.  You can be sure I won’t do that again.  But I was thinking I would just go back with you and spend the rest of the week at home.”

That obviously wasn’t the answer George was looking for.

“No, no.  I have stuff to do, and you’re the one who said you needed to get away.  If you go home, you know you’ll pick up a case and then you’ll complain you never get any time off.  Just finish out the week, there’s plenty of supplies here, and wood for the stove and fireplace.  Power may come back on, and if not, there’s plenty of lanterns and flashlights.  But if I were you, I’d sleep when it gets dark and not take a tour of these woods.  Never know what could be out there waiting for you, Frank.  You just never know.  I‘ll drive up at the end of the week and bring you back to the city.”

He got up and started for the door.  I guess the decision was final.

“Before you go, George, where’s the key to the gun cabinet--just in case there is something out there waiting for me?  I mean, like if I decide to take a walk into town.  It’s not that far from here.  Would I just follow that trail out back?”

There was George seeming to need to catch his breath again.

“Sure, Frank, you can have the key.  It’s in the nightstand next to the bed.  You’re not going to need a gun while you’re here though, Frank.  Nothing else is going to happen.  Nothing.  Just lots of peace and quiet.”

With that, he headed out.  I locked the door behind him and checked that the back door and all the windows were locked as well.  Got the key from the bedroom, unlocked the cabinet, took out one of the shotguns and loaded it.  If anybody decided to pay me a late night visit, they’d be in for one big surprise...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


This week it was my turn to host F3 and I thought I'd focus on one of film's great thrillers, Sorry, Wrong Number.  This was about a woman alone, overhearing a very disturbing telephone conversation, and it took off from there.

I set up a loose scenario about someone needing a bit of R&R and borrowing a friend's cabin for the weekend.  He/she overhears a telephone conversation too, but how does it turn out for that individual?  Well, that's where everyone's imagination comes in.  What follows is the bend in the road my imagination chose...  Please enjoy.


Finally.  Here.  In my entire life, I don’t ever remember driving so far.  Being fortunate enough to land a top-notch spot with an ad agency and being able to work from my home computer made rush hour traffic a nightmare I only heard about from friends.  I’ve always chosen to reside close to personal necessities like doctors, dentists and the like.  I grocery shop online and have prescriptions delivered to my door.  I am most definitely not a fan of the open road.  But the opportunity to really get away from everyone and everything for even a weekend was just too good to pass up, even if I had to drive for hours upon hours and end up on a road that leads to the ass-end of nowhere.

Tomorrow is Saturday and it’s a very special Saturday because it’s my 30th birthday.  That’s one of the big ones, you know--like a milestone or some such thing.  I had originally planned to spend this entire weekend with my main man, Robert, in a $2,500.00 a night suite at one of the luxury hotels downtown, being fed caviar with champagne to wash it down, and basically being treated as if the entire universe revolved solely around me.  That was also Robert’s plan; that is, until our boss, a.k.a. the spawn of Satan, decided to send my better half to some one-horse town in a country whose name contains no vowels, to sign some cold cream magnate.  Yep.  You heard me correctly.  Cold cream.  If we get the account, I’ll be writing copy to sell crap that went out of style before I was even born.  Don’t you just love big business?

My inside contact, Darby, who has brought work to my home in the dead of night when my PC’s gone down, along with a hundred other heroic deeds, has been offering to let me use this cabin her Pop left her.  She told me there’s only one road for going in and going out and if it rains, forget it.  The sucker floods and mud will bury your car up to the door handles.  It backs up to some woods, and there are trails leading to a small village that remain fairly passable if supplies or assistance might be needed.  She knows the pressure that suffocates me daily and makes the offer at least three times a week.  As soon as my shine-the-spotlight-on-me weekend with my honey evaporated, I asked her for the keys, and here I am at last.  And, it’s raining.

Damn stuff caught me by surprise.  Blue sky, a few puffy white clouds one minute--black sky, even blacker clouds, and a downpour like a fire hose in my face the next.  Just a few feet up the small walkway to the front door and I’m already soaked.  Good thing this place is stocked with the good stuff.  Darby knows me all too well and she promised me I’d never go thirsty.  Mind you, I’m no lush, but a nice warm brandy, or three, before and probably after dinner for a couple of days is going to be just the kind of R&R I need.  First though, off with the wet and on with the…

What the hell was that?  The phone?  I haven’t heard a ringer like that since visiting the grandparents a century ago.  No choice in the matter here though since there’s no cell service at all.  One obviously cannot be without a telephone, but the only ones that work out here are the old rotary types, and Darby’s is right here on the small table near the dining room.  I feel like I’m in an episode of the original Twilight Zone and I can almost hear the theme song.  This ‘telephone’ is a clunky-looking thing, charcoal black, large print letters and numbers underneath a clear dial, and last, but not least, the ear/mouth thingy shakes, rattles and rolls during its deafening ring.  Thanks, Darb.  You told me you forwarded this mutant thing to where you’d be staying this weekend so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.  I suppose I could just let it ring, but with my luck, I really am in the Twilight Zone and it will never stop.  Oh well.  Here goes.


Nothing but a lot of cracking noises.  These old things were never meant to function during an electrical storm anyway.  What was that?  Voices?

“Hello?  Is anyone there?  Can you hear me?”


Sounded like a woman’s voice.  Maybe.

“What?  Hello?  Hello?”


Now, that sounded like a man.  I don’t believe this.  Somehow this phone got hooked up with another call.  Wild.  I should hang up now.  I will.  Soon.  Really.


The woman.  She sounds angry.


What did he say?

“Hello?  Can either of you hear me because I can hear you both.  What about tonight, and who’s going to die?  I’m calling the police now.  Hello?  Answer me, damn it…”

Dial tone.  Fuck.  They both hung up.  I wonder if I…, yeah, right.  Like I’m going to be able to dial star sixty-nine.  I can dial zero though.  Maybe I can get somebody in the village.

“This is Zelda.  Who did you need to be connected to?”

Oh God.

“Zelda?  This is…”

“You’re a friend to that odd little gal, Darby, right?  I can see you’re calling from her place.  She said she was going to get you to her cabin one way or the other.  What you need, hon?”

Get me up here one way or another?  I can feel a headache creeping in around my eyes.  Why doesn’t this rain let up?

“Yes, Zelda, my name is Suzanne and I’m staying in Darby’s cabin for the weekend.  Thing is, the phone here rang and when I picked it up, I could hear what sounded like a man and a woman having a conversation that really disturbed me, but they couldn’t hear me.  Must be that crazy storm, huh?”

“For sure, Miss Suzanne.  Lines get crossed around here all the time.  Nothing to worry about.  I’m fixing to have my sandwich and coffee in a few, and when I’m at dinner break, I shut down for an hour or so, so do you need me to connect you to somebody?”

She shuts the lines down while she eats.  Un-fucking-believable.

“Not really, Zelda, but if you could do something for me, I’d appreciate it.  The call that came through on this line a few minutes ago, would you happen to know where it came from?  Or, would you happen to know at least one of the numbers that was on the line?”

The silence was less than encouraging.

“No offense, Miss Suzanne from the big city, but up here, we don’t have fancy buttons and switches to find out where calls come from.  This ain’t no CSI Miami.  If you don’t like what you hear, hang up.  Problem solved.  I’m going to have my dinner now.”

She hung up.  Unreal.  Something terrible is going to happen at midnight tonight.  My God.  Somebody’s going to die, and she‘s gone to eat her sandwich.  Wait a minute.  Something about ‘she’, ‘alone’, ‘bear’…  I’m a she and I’m alone and this cabin is at the end of Big Bear Road…

I need a drink.  Lord, do I watch too many old movies, or what.  But still…  Why would Darby tell Zelda she had to get me up here, and why did Zelda call her odd?  She is kind of--always wanting to know my schedule, delivering and picking up my work, and so willing to drive out to my house, but why?  Why has she been systematically inserting herself into my life?  She’s always asking about Robert too, like, just how close are he and I, and…  I knew it!  That psycho bitch, wanting to share her cabin with me.  That was her on the phone--I know it--talking to some guy she’s sending here at midnight to kill me!

I need another drink.  Stress can do strange things to a person‘s mind.  Why would drab, and odd, little Darby want me dead anyway?  I know.  So she can get Robert, that’s why!  But she can’t think she has a chance with him.  He told me that she asked him if he’d like to join her for a drink after a long meeting, and he said he made it very clear to her that he wasn’t interested in her that way.  He told her it was probably just a crush, and she’d get over it.  Apparently, she didn’t, and believes with me out of the way, she can change his mind.

I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming.  I’ll bet Zelda is in on it too.  The lines will be off so I can’t call for help.  Let me tell you something, missy, if you think I’m going to sit around and wait to be murdered, you’ve got another thing coming.  You weren’t counting on that call coming through here, were you?

It’s almost midnight and there’s a lovely carving set in the kitchen.  No one can come up the road, and one of them said something about ‘back’, which I’m certain means the back door.  He’ll come up one of the trails and come in that way.  I’m going to be ready for you when you do, whoever you are, you son-of-a-bitch.  Oh yes.  I’m ready.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

It’s not my fault.  It truly isn’t.  I didn’t know.  How could I have?  He was supposed to be half a world away until Monday.  He wasn’t supposed to be wearing waders, a hooded raincoat, and carrying a plastic covered briefcase filled with caviar, champagne and a diamond necklace.  And, he most certainly wasn’t supposed to have obtained an extra key to this cabin from Darby so he could come up the back way on the trails to surprise me for my birthday.

Robert.  My dear Robert.  When the door opened and you walked in the darkened kitchen, I couldn’t help myself.  You understand why I had to keep stabbing and stabbing and…  You do, don’t you?  You looked so confused as you fell.

“I’m so sorry, Robert.  I didn’t know what I…  The phone call…  I thought…”

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Just outside the still open back door, a killer watches and listens.

Should be able to make this appear as a murder-suicide, he thinks.  Happens all the time.  My client will be very pleased.  Two for the price of one…

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


This week is certainly an interesting one over at F3.  The 'prompt' was to discuss writing, as in what inspires us, what kind of fiction do we like to write, etc.  I would like to say first of all that I can't wait to read the submissions for this one.  I am always very interested in getting inside the heads of other writers.  What follows is from an interview I did a long time ago, and I hope it fits the bill for this week's discussion.  Please enjoy.


Recently, a very interesting question came up.  I had provided some friends with a link to one of my stories that was recently published, and a couple of them asked me how in the world I came up with such nightmarish ideas.  Since I write crime 'fiction', it wasn't like I was pulling from court documents or newspaper archives, so where did I get my ideas for my characters and what happened to them?  Funny, but I really had no quick answer to that.

The more I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that, even though what I write is fiction, I am still drawing from my own experiences and from real life.  I feel the need to clarify here though, that I am not, nor have I ever been, a law enforcement officer, a serial killer, or anything in between.  So, what part of my life does it all come from?

The best way that I can put it is to say that my material comes from being a good watcher and a good listener.  When we are out and about, we all see and hear things from those around us, but I believe there is something within a writer of any genre that drives us to look deeper and listen more carefully.  From the standpoint of seeking material for characters, I have to admit I've found some of the best of mine just standing in a line waiting for...well, anything.  If you simply watch people, carefully, I might add, you can quickly determine those who are predatory by nature, and also those who have more than likely been victimized for their entire lives.

That is not to say that any of these people are criminals or that they've been involved in some type of illegal activity.  It probably just amounts to something as simple as negotiating the purchase of an item at a sidewalk sale or returning a sweater for a refund without the receipt.  Carefully watching and listening somehow enables us to know who will not get that chipped bookcase for an extra 50 cents off and who will not only get their money back for the sweater, but will also get a coupon for money off on another one.

Alright, now we've got some basic traits for characters.  What do we do now?  That's where we, as writers, come in.  We imagine--yes, I did say imagine--how that type of individual would see a particular situation or event.  We become that type of individual and let them see it through our own eyes.  That probably doesn't make a lot of sense on its face, but what we basically do is assume the role.  It's play-acting really, just like kids who play cops and robbers.  Some become the cops and some become the robbers.  They let the role consume them.  They walk and talk and think like the character they are portraying.  That's what writers have to do.

It sounds a bit crazy, I suppose (perhaps I shouldn't use the word 'crazy'), but when I'm writing dialogue for whoever, I put myself in their shoes.  I become that particular character with a particular past, particular likes and dislikes, particular fears and needs, etc.  Then, when responding, I become the other character, and so on.  Multiple personality time?  Most definitely.  Open your mind and they will come.  You see, it's important to make your characters believable.  That's the only way you can make your readers believe.  If your readers can't believe or relate in some way, what is there about it that they can enjoy?  And, if they can't enjoy it, know what that means.

Events, experiences, and even crimes--whatever happens to these characters we create, well, they can come from anywhere.  I believe, most of the time, they come from an exaggeration of something in our lives.  Let's say, someone cuts you off in traffic.  Perhaps it's a stretch going from mouthing something unsavory to dismembering the driver, but you get my point.  In our 'real' lives, we probably would go with saying something nasty while keeping our windows rolled up.  But the killer in our story?  He would step it up a notch or twelve.  That's where imagination comes in.  Am I saying we just sit and make things up?  Of course.  What else!

Crime, horror, whatever, ultimately, it all comes from within the writer--true.  But, it's what we take in and mix with what's already in there that helps us to create the stuff dreams and nightmares are made of.