Michael Haskins

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Where do your story ideas come from? Or, truth is stranger than fiction!

As a writer, I read newspapers and news magazines. It’s as mandatory as writing, as far as I’m concerned. I read to stimulate ideas. I don’t always spend time on the headlines, but look for the short pieces that carry unusual news. You never know when something strange might kick your imagination into gear. I can read a piece from Alaska and ask myself, “what if, in Key West . . .?”

I also watch TV news, both the Miami channels and CNN.

I watched, as most of the world did, in horror recently as the bridge in the Twin Cities collapsed. It was caught, wide angle, on a surveillance camera. It looked like something out of the new Bruce Willis Die Hard movie.

Of course, it wasn’t entertainment. It was death of innocent men and women and destruction. Today, days later, the disaster is still affecting the daily lives of the people that drove over that bridge to go to work, to go out for dinner, to go on a date, to go home from picking kids up at day care. It is unimaginable.

Or is it?

It was a very visual event, both during and afterward. Maybe, because of the visual affect I thought of the movies instead of a book. I’m sure I am not the only mystery writer who watched the TV footage and wondered what kind of story he/she could build around the tragedy. It’s what we do. I said a silent prayer for the victims and their families, but that was all I could do from Key West.

I don’t know if I will use the incident, but we do have a lot of bridges – one is seven-miles long – on the ride from Miami to Key West, so the possibility is there. In the newspapers, I’ve followed the reports about the condition of bridges throughout the United States.

An optimist might say it’s a good report because there are so few bridges in the same condition, or worse, than the one in Minneapolis; a pessimist might say it was a bad report, a warning of our failing infrastructure. I think most writers are, in their writing, pessimists because that’s where the mayhem comes from. Optimists don’t often commit mayhem; I don’t like to say never. But I think you get my point.

So, is truth stranger than fiction?

I have a family friend who lives in Orlando and doesn’t visit because of her phobia of driving over bridges in the Keys. I used to laugh at her phobia. I assumed that our bridges were safe because the government was looking out for our safety!

After the disaster in Minneapolis, I am beginning to wonder if government regulators and agencies do their jobs. Is the FAA really doing its job with the airlines? Traffic controllers? I'm having second thoughts.

Imagine a book that’s premise is the demise of America through the failure of its infrastructure. Where would you begin it? With the roads and bridges? The airlines? Communications? The legal system?

When I open the morning paper now, my hands shake because what I am seeing is the origins of a great thriller and you and I are characters in it. There’s a clown leading the nation, a Congress of inept (at best; corrupt, in a worse case) men and women who have not accomplished anything in almost eight years, even though the voting public told them to do something.

The list goes on and on. I’m sure you can add to it from your city or county. I guess another thing reading and searching through newspapers teaches is that truth is stranger than fiction, and less believable.

Where do your story ideas come from?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You call George Bush a clown only because you could not call Bill Clinton moral.

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