Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Finding Story Ideas in the Strangest Places
by Pat Stoltey
Writers need to keep their eyes open and their wits about them at all times, but especially while traveling.
A long day of flights and layovers creates opportunities to overhear interesting dialogue. Two hours in a large airport allows time to observe hundreds, maybe thousands, of travelers. Even a short stay in a small airport inevitably leads to an interesting conversation with a fellow passenger.
Since I'm heading out Monday for my third trip in six weeks, I'm especially tuned in to the joys of people watching. I pay attention to quirky habits and unusual patterns of speech, shamelessly eavesdrop on cell phone conversations, and watch how young stressed parents deal with babies and whiny kids and strollers and each other.
Important notes for mystery writers:
1. Annoying (and annoyed) people make excellent victims in crime fiction.
2. Even a lonely hotel room, especially one with no windows, can provide ideas for setting.
3. Models for quirky secondary characters are everywhere, especially O'Hare Airport.
From my travels the last few weeks, I've made these decisions:
1. The first victim in my next mystery will be a waiter, and I won't say any more about that.
2. I will have a young male suspect who wears his pants with the crotch hanging almost to his knees.
3. One character will rub her nose and sniff a lot, and the protagonist will wonder whether she has allergies...or whether she's a drug addict.
4. And something will happen in a creepy hotel room while the protagonist is trying to update her blog.
And if you see a little gray-haired lady scribbling in a notebook at a gate in O'Hare Airport toward the end of next week, check her out. It might be me.