Wednesday, November 10, 2010


When fiction imitates life...

One of the postings one one of my yahoo groups this morning is about a gas line being accidentally cut as some road work was being done. Scary thing to see happen outside your window, especially when the consequences could be disasterous -- not to get you excessively worried, RJ.

A similar, but less critical incident happened here a few years ago when workers, digging way down deep into the roadway, cut the water main which resulted in a spectacular gusher, directed mainly at my neighbour's front window.

The instant advice this a.m. was to take notes. Consider this research and who knows in what book or short story it will re-appear. Excellent advice, as you never know when you'll need the diversion of a ruptured gas main to allow your sleuth to conduct a slightly illegal search of the house next door. Or that gusher of water could bring someone running out of the house, someone who'd been hiding out and is now found.

Life is constant fodder for all writers and often it doesn't take much to trigger a story line. On the weekend, I jokingly suggested that the car parked in the far corner of a deserted business park, and the two figures shaking hands then backing away to continue their talk, was a drug deal going down. I won't tell you what the response was from my non-mystery reader friend. But the words 'overly active WEIRD imagination' were used. Still, it got me to thinking...and it's filed away for future use. Something about the hour of the morning, the clouds hovering low, the chance sighting by a passer-by.....

And then there are the "truth is stranger than fiction" incidents that no one would believe possible if included in a book. Which is a good reason not to include them in your book. An Ontario serial killer, and a cat burglar (a real cat, the kind that meows) come instantly to mind. I did try to use the cat burglar and my agent in the kindest possible way, suggested I remove it.

As Anne Lamott states in Word by Word (blogged about previously), she never leaves home without a pen and index cards on her person. It's that all too real possibility that you see a inciting incident or hear an amazing phrase...and not remember it when you sit down at the computer. Or keep them on the beside table for when you lie there with your brain working overtime half the night.

Has real life crept into your latest writings?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase


  1. How true. I went for a walk today and there is a picnic cooler sitting at the bottom of a neighbour's driveway. It has been there since Monday, our garbage day. The mystery mind immediately leapt to 'this cooler contains a severed head.'
    And yes, folks, I actually went and looked inside.

  2. Bev Panasky wrote a brilliant, if entirely creepy, short story titled "The Other White Meat". Just as her story was ready to shop around, Willie Pickton and his pig farm became infamous. Now Bev hasn't a hope in hell of getting this wonderful, inventive story published . . . because real life has soured the fictional world. What a crime!