By Martha Reed
People who read my fiction look at me differently once they’re done. I’ve noticed it on more than one occasion especially if it’s someone I work with during the day. You see, my 9-5 job is in financial services and it’s very focused on a specific product. My associates see the Me in the suit – that’s the Me they’ve come to know and then they read one of my horror stories or my mystery novel and then they ask: Hey, Marth? Where do you get this stuff from?
1) I get it from reading. Honestly, I read everything I can get my hands on because you never know where an idea will lead you. I can remember the first time I tried to weave three unrelated items together to create an entirely new story and I was amazed when it held up and took on a life of its own. I’ve even taken this cool tool one step further and I can now identify something going on in the new that I will probably circle back to later to use in a future story. I already know that I will probably be using some version of the kidnapped child/sex slave kept in the backyard at some future time.
2) I get it from listening. You never know what you will hear. It’s the only reason I like riding the bus – I overhear massive amounts of private conversation. For instance, one morning I was heading into town when an obviously upset middle-aged woman climbed aboard. You could tell she was just dying to find someone to talk to and luckily, she did. She plopped down and started complaining that her mother-in-law had called her because the basement was flooding and she (the mother-in-law) wanted her son to come home from the union hall to help her get stuff up out of the water. The daughter-in-law/woman on the bus then called down to the hall to get her husband Donny to go help his mother but the receptionist told her that Donny wasn’t there just then he was over at his girlfriend’s house.
Bam. You could have heard a pin drop and I wasn’t the only one who rode that bus every morning for a solid week waiting for the follow up. We never got it. I even read the paper every day looking for a domestic disturbance or homicide notice but the story went cold. I didn’t get discouraged, though – that’s where fiction can step in. Someday I may need a character like Donny’s First Wife and there she is, already neatly in hand.
3) I keep my eyes open. Characters are out walking our streets. Since we’re coming up on Halloween, I’ll tell you a spooky one. There’s a character in my first novel, Addie Simpson, a heavy-set fifty year old woman who sports a goatee. Addie is a complete fabrication although I did give that character a lot of thought when I was starting out since Addie was a pivotal character. Years later, I was standing in the A&P on Nantucket with my niece who was admiring the lobster tank when I looked up and damn if Addie Simpson wasn’t standing there in the chip aisle grinning at me. The woman had it down to the dirty navy peacoat she was wearing. I stood there, conflicted – I couldn’t leave my niece alone but all I wanted to do was run up to the woman and touch her to see if she was real.
Which brings me to the question of the day: Where Do You Get Your Material? Please post your answers. Inquiring minds want to know.