Posted by Kate Parker Feb 4 2013, 12:09 am
Before the unfortunate discovery of the American tourist murdered in Istanbul, my daughter told me how an American woman had recently gone missing in Istanbul. She wasn’t in a bad neighborhood. She’d been traveling in Europe for a period of time. She was married, although her family wasn’t traveling with her. Then my daughter, who’s not a writer, said, “Unfortunately, she’s probably dead, but you can’t help but wonder if she engineered her own disappearance for some reason.”
Visions of Sleeping with the Enemy popped into my head, followed by strange spy scenarios. I could see my daughter’s mind running in the same direction. I think it’s hardwired into our genes. Perhaps it’s just a wish that things could end happily all the time when reality doesn’t give us that option. We’re writers (my daughter doesn’t know she is, yet) and as writers we see endings and plot complications and character arcs beyond what happens in real life.
I once followed a car down a two lane road where the other car’s trunk was leaning badly to one side. I decided it was because of the weight 0f the body in the trunk. When he pulled off and got out to open his trunk, I wondered if he would be surprised to find the body there. Actually, he was getting a flat tire, and the only thing he wanted to find in his trunk was the spare and the jack. On the other hand, I knew what the deceased looked like and how he had come to be in the trunk of the car. My reality may not be real, but it sure is exciting.
When writing, I sometimes have to bend time and accuracy to give my story more thrills. For instance, Operation Sea Lion was Hitler’s plan to invade England, devised in 1939 and 1940. What if it had been planned two years previously, and a copy was stolen and smuggled into England? The possibilities for mayhem are endless.
There are hundreds of real apps for mobile phones. What if Cupid devised an app that gave the coordinates for the person you were to spend your life with? No name, no identifying features, just the closest intersection to where they were at that moment. Can you imagine the confusion this could cause in a romantic comedy for Valentine’s Day?
Authors have written such stories as “If the South had won the Civil War” and other alternative history. Steampunk is set in a technologically advanced Victorian world. Dan Brown’s tales tend to take a piece of history and move it into the present day with startling results.
Taking what is (or was) and changing that reality is something writers do instinctively and almost without realizing it. It’s part of the creative process.
You know you’re a writer if: Have you ever been to a movie and afterwards needed to rewrite the ending?
Overheard a conversation and created an entire scenario around it?
Seen someone in a crowd and thought, “That person would make an interesting character in a story?”
I know you’ve had some of these same experiences, or you have imagined a better ending to an event than what happened in real life. Please share them with us.