Many years ago my young daughter and I lived alone due to circumstances. We were living in a small apartment, and there had been several instances of prowlers lurking and mysterious occurrences, like keys disappearing from apartments. Everyone in the building was on the lookout for each other.
One night I was awakened when I felt someone’s presence in the room. Surprisingly, I was sleeping soundly that night and it took me a moment to wake up. I was trying to figure out why I thought someone was in the room when I realized my hand rested on that of someone else. Mind you, I was very sleepy. I wondered if I was dreaming.
I started to feel the fingers of the hand. Yes, someone was definitely in my room. I wanted to jump up, grab my daughter from the next room and run, but I was so groggy.
I touched one more of the intruder’s fingers and suddenly I was wide awake! I was on the verge of screaming, when all of a sudden I realized… I was feeling my own hand. My head rested on my right arm and my hand had gone to sleep. Needless to say, my right hand had no feeling and didn’t know my left hand was touching its fingers.
The point of this story is, there are so many things that happen to us in real life that we can twist and turn until they’re fodder for a mystery. Think about your life. You must have had something odd happen at some time in your personal history. Use it.
A few years after the hand incident I’d moved and lived in a very old house. There was a local bum/drunk who watched my house, unknown to me until he began arriving on my doorstep. He’d tell me the things he’d seen me do, and he’d leave little “gifts” like a soft drink or a bag of potato chips on my porch when I wasn’t home. Without going into detail, he was a scary guy who really wanted me to let him in. Interestingly, I’d call the police and somehow they could never find him. There’s a story behind that, but it’s better left for another time.
When I wrote “Bubba’s Ghost”, I used the bum/drunk as a basis for the story. I created twists and turns galore and ended up with a pretty good murder mystery.
You can create a scene or an entire book out of one instance in your life. No one has to know your story or scene is based on something that really happened to you, or that you saw happen to someone else. Real life can become fiction, although sometimes it needs a little help.
That fickle finger of fate can actually cause the direction our lives are taking to turn down a side road. The same thing can happen to our protagonist or other characters in our books. Sometimes we can even turn a traumatic occurrence into a funny scene.
Don’t get me wrong. Not all of my books are based on real life experiences, although a menopausal woman takes down a mugger in “A Well-Kept Family Secret”. That scene was based on something that happened to a friend and me when she was mugged in a bank parking lot several years ago.
Hmm. I’ve lived kind of an interesting life. Maybe I was meant to be a mystery writer. I sure have enough life experience for it.
As a reader, I hope you enjoy what mystery writers write, and I hope you can relate to some of the lighter parts of stories. I don’t want anyone to relate to the dark parts, but things happen.
As a writer, I hope you’re watching and remembering. I hope you’re using memories as well as your imagination.
If anyone can relate, readers or writers, it might even be a little therapeutic. One can always hope.
Thank you so much for letting me share a little about turning reality into fiction, Sharon. You have a lovely site and I enjoyed visiting.
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