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, well...you 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.


  1. I am really falling down on my comments but extended free time is a rare thing at my house lately.

    ...you can quickly determine those who are predatory by nature...

    That struck me as a very wise statement. I have found that truly being aware of the people around you while staying quite its easy to see the true character of indiviuals. Most everyone is predatory to some degree but the favorite example that still sends chills down my spine happened at the Atlanta airport.

    Was sitting in the waiting area next my departure gate watching the people around me. One guy across the walk way tended to stare at teh ladies passing by. It went beyond simple girl watching to something akin to a nut case looking for someone to attack. It's one of those "you had to be there" to understand how creepy the dude acted.

  2. Oh, wow! This is very insightful, Joyce! I like what you say about the stories we write.. .the characters; how often they are an exaggeration of something in our lives.

    I love that we can do a little role-playing in our writing... live out some fantasy. In my flash story GHOST for example, I am a 'ghost'... a cat burglar... thief of the night. Now, obviously I would never really do that in real life (okay, so then how come you have written several stories about this very thing, Veronica?)so this is a nice release for us... this writing thing, right?

    And... for those of us with a past... a brush with darkness and evil...writing helps us move from victim to survivor

    You understand this... about putting something of ourselves in our characters... likes and dislikes... quirks... physical traits. All of this allows us to identify and relate to our character... to build them up... until they take on a life of their own.

    Multiple personalities? Definitely?

    Crazy? You know... there is no legal definition for crazy. ;-)

    Very thought-provoking, Joyce. Thank you so much for sharing of yourself!