Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hitting Home

by Kristine Coblitz

As writers, we all have those real-life crime stories that hit home for us, whether it's a crime that happened to us personally, to someone in our family, or perhaps even within the community where we live. For some of us, those experiences and stories are what prompted us to become crime writers in the first place.

For me, there are a few news stories that have really touched me. I have the clippings in a file folder. I don't know whether or not they'll actually make it into a book plot or story, but I know they are there. Often times, I'll open the file folder and look through it as a way to connect with why writing crime fiction is so important and meaningful to me. Reading about these crimes, most of which have never been solved, reinforces in me a sense of purpose. I write crime fiction to make sense of a world that doesn't offer simple answers.

Sometimes the story is too fresh for us to write about. Lately, I've been researching a murder that happened nearly 15 years ago. I always knew I'd write about it, but I was too close. It happened to a friend of mine. Only now do I feel I can explore it in my fiction objectively.

Let's face it. What we do is difficult. Spending time in the underworld exploring murder and crafting believable villains is not easy. No wonder such a high percentage of writers suffer from depression and anxiety. Writing about the dark side is not for the faint of heart. But for those of us who find it to be our true calling, it's a task we accept because it's our job. It's our place in the world and our purpose.

When a writer is able to pull it off, it can be pure magic.

Let us celebrate our calling as writers. It's a special gift, one that needs nurturing and (as we all know) is rarely appreciated by outsiders who don't understand the power of language or why we'd rather sit at our computer within our fictional world than go to a movie or talk about the latest celebrity scandal.

How will you embrace your gift and make the most of it today?


Joyce Tremel said...

Excellent post, Kristine!

I have a file of those news clippings, too. Most of them are not the sensational stories that get the most coverage. But one of them is the "Boy in the Box" story. I'm sure that someday a case like his is going to be solved in one of my books.

That's what I like best about crime fiction. We can bring justice and peace to the victims. That doesn't always happen in real life.

I plan on embracing my gift today by trying to finish my first draft.

Annette said...

You go, Joyce!

I also have a file drawer of clips. Some are news stories that I've followed. Some are articles that contain some tidbit I can work into my current WIP.

I'm going to a Pennwriters lunch today, so I don't know that I'll get any writing done, but I'll be sharing with like-minded folks and swapping conference tales. I guess you could say I'm embracing my gift by sharing it today.

Anonymous said...

Joyce: I think the nonsensational news stories are the best and most intriguing. Good luck on finishing that first draft! You can do it.

Annettte: Sharing time with other writers most definitely counts. It's all part of the writing process.

Anonymous said...

I'm celebrating my gift(s) today by struggling with where eveything I want to do fits on my priority list. Today it's a training I'm scheduled to give, one I feel called to do, and my book proposal.

Right now, they're all duking it out and no one is winning. That's the worst!

Anonymous said...

Well, my news clipping file is a bit different. I have a lifetime of real crime scenes and real victims in my memory.

I know the stories of the dead; I know the agony of the families they left behind, and I know what it's like to look into the eyes of a murderer. I also know what it's like to place handcuffs on the bloody wrists of a killer.

Sometimes, when I open my files I can still hear the screams.

There is no fine line to set apart reality and fiction when it comes to murder. Dead is dead no matter which words are used to describe it.

I do know that writing about cops, murders, and killers is a lot safer than participating in crime solving.

I'd gladly trade a gun for a pen, any day.

Joyce Tremel said...

"Sometimes, when I open my files I can still hear the screams."

Powerful words, Lee.

It's a good reminder that there are real people who face the villains day in and day out.

I'm glad you traded your gun for a pen.

Anonymous said...

Lee: Haunting words. I'm also glad you traded your gun for your pen. I agree that as fiction writers, we can't come close to describing what it actually feels like to do the things you describe. I get chills just thinking about what you've seen and experienced.

Anonymous said...

Tory: I think keeping balance is the most difficult part. Too many things and ideas fighting for attention.

Anonymous said...

Actually, good fiction writers do come hauntingly close to describing real murder. That's why I say there's no line between fiction and reality when it comes to death. Some of the killings I've seen could only have been plotted in the deepest corner of an imagination.

Hmmm...what would it take for someone to lay down the pen and pick up a gun or a knife?

Anonymous said...

Lee: I always find real-life crime committed by writers as very interesting. Could all the research and plotting push some people over the edge? Could it make murder look too appealing and/or easy? Hm.

I have to agree with you about the fine line between fiction and reality, too. I've read some crime scenes that seriously make you wonder what goes on in the mind of the writer.