Friday, October 22, 2010

TV and Newspapers Get Me Started

I just finished Chapter 1 in my new book, so I thought it would be a good time to answer that quintessential reader question, where do you get your ideas? Yet unnamed, this is the second in my new Sid Chance PI series. When I started casting about for a plot, I decided to use some current problem as the background for the story. About that time I saw a segment on the TV news detailing how FBI agents in Miami tracked down Medicare scammers.

It dealt with small companies that pop up and disappear just as suddenly, their aim to collect claims for expensive items like motorized chairs, hearing aids, handicap aids used around the home, etc. Trouble is, the claims are fake. And by the time Medicare gets around to questioning if they're fraudulent, the companies have closed shop and moved on. They're usually storefront operations that have been cleaned out by the time investigators arrive. According to the story, the racket is more lucrative than drug dealing and much less likely to result in an arrest.

New policies are being put into effect to slow the growth of Medicare fraud, but it's going to take a while to get the situation under control. Idea Number One checked off.

But I needed another. My protag is a former National Park ranger and small town police chief turned private investigator. He would not be involved in chasing down Medicare fraud. I looked for a character with some other problem whose presence could propel my PI into another case that involved one of these illegitimate medical supply operations.

I found my character on the front page of the newspaper a couple of Sundays ago. He was Metro Nashville's youngest murderer. He shot a man during a late night drug deal when he was twelve years old. Released from prison after spending more than half his life behind bars, he is back home now in his mid-twenties. The young man's life was chronicled in a series of articles exploring the question is there hope for children who kill?

He is faced with the problem  of starting his life over. He insists he will not go back to prison and wants to prove a person can change. But he hasn't found anyone willing to hire him, and he struggles to find his role in the community. Siblings who were three and four when he was locked up are now grown and have kids of their own.

He seemed like an ideal character to get my story moving, and that's what he did. He gets charged with another murder. I just need to find another 70,000 words to get him to the end. I think most writers would agree that generating ideas to initiate a story is one of the easiest parts of the job. What you accomplish with those ideas is where the hard part comes in. I'll have to let you know in a few months just how hard it was.

Or, as I like to say, now the fun begins.

Chester Campbell

Mystery Mania


Jean Henry Mead said...

I just sold my third Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novel, so I'm also thrashing about for a new crime topic to wrap my plot around. Illegal immigration and homegrown terrorists captured my interest for the last book so finding another equally "arresting" topic has me as stumped as you've been, Chester. Your new protag does sound like a great subject to toss back into trouble.

Chester Campbell said...

Hope you find an equally scintillating subject for this one, Jean.

Morgan Mandel said...

I've gotten some great ideas from newspaper articles also, but am still waiting for just the right spot to include them.

Morgan Mandel