Monday, December 27, 2010

Plucking Stuff from Real Life for Mystery Writing

When writing, I use a lot of what's going on around me.

One of my first mysteries, Guilt by Association, had a flood where the loss of a bridge kept people stranded on the wrong side with only one house above the water. Everyone congregated there and of course, there was a murder. This was based on a flood where the only bridge out of a mountain community was washed away--and I just sailed on from there.

A few years back, up in the forest, the environmentalist activists made it impossible for the loggers to work, and I included that in the first Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery where Nick Two John is introduced, Deadly Trail, and I plucked a bit from a murder that happened at a mountain lodge nearby. A visit to a Pow Wow became the basis for Deadly Omen. One of the locations in Wingbeat was an isolated home in the mountains I visited once in order to interview the owner for a newspaper article. At the time I thought it was really a perfect place for illegal activity. I also based one of the characters on another person I interviewed for the newspaper. To be perfectly honest, a lot of the people I've interviewed over the years became characters in my book.

In Judgment Fire an idea came from a huge pond a man in our neighborhood created above many other homes. I can't say that I've ever heard about anyone calling back the dead, but in Calling the Dead I included the account of a horrendous story someone told me about a kidnapping and rape. I researched how Indians call back the dead.

Kindred Spirits came from my meeting a wonderful Tolowa woman who charmed me with her stories about her people and we truly became kindred spirits. She had such a multi-faceted personality, I knew I had to write about her. In this book, she became two people. The victim in the story was based on an artist I'd interveiwed.

Dispel the Mist drew on a couple of real life events. For over twenty years I had a residential care home and knew that many people had problems with neighbors when they started a new facility for developmentally disable people and I used that as part of a sub-plot. I also had the opportunity to visit the Painted Rock site where there are pictographs of The Hairy Man, the Tule River Indians' version of Big Foot. I knew that Deputy Tempe Crabtree had to have an encounter with the Hairy Man. The Bear Creek Indian Reservation in my books is based on the Tule River Indian Reservation located near my home.

In Invisible Path I wanted to have something about the recovery center that's located at the end of the reservation and the men who are either sent there or go under their own volition. I'd also seen what looked like paramilitary men traveling on the highway heading into the mountains and I wanted to write about what I thought they might be up to.

In the mystery I'm planning now, I'm going to write about two deaths that happened recently and were called natural, but to me and others in our community there were many unanswered questions. I also have a friend who wants to be an character in my next book--so she'll definitely be there. Once the holidays are over, I'm going to get busy on it.

Happy New Year!



Mary Vaughn said...

Stories certainly present themselves in the strangest places.
Even the mundane can be criminal.

Earl Staggs said...

Marilyn, sounds like when people ask where you get your ideas, you have the answers ready for them. Good luck with your story ideas in the New Year.

Morgan Mandel said...

What's so great about being a writer is you can weave the real with the unreal to make up your own stories.

Sounds like you've done a terrific job of it.

Morgan Mandel

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I have fun asking the "What if?" questions about stuff that goes on around me.


Libby McKinmer said...

I love how real life triggers your imagination, Marilyn!