Friday, July 8, 2011

You Can't Make That Up

People ask me a lot of questions about being a writer. The most common one is where do I get my ideas. My usual response is that I steal them because that's a lot easier than coming up with them on my own. Like a lot of jokes, there's a kernel of truth in that.

I steal a lot of my ideas from real life, from the amazing, incredible, you-did-not-just-do-that stuff we witness every day of the world. I pay attention to what's happening and ask myself "what if" questions.

Real life is a lot more interesting than fiction precisely because the people and the plots are real, the consequences matter and, too often too many people don't live happily ever after.

The Casey Anthony case proves the point. Even if a clever, creative writer came up with that story (and plenty have in one version or another - check out Michael Connelly's The Fifth Witness), it would never be as compelling as what happened in that courtroom.

As a writer, the challenge lies in the last chapter. Was she really guilty? If she was, do you leave it at that or make certain justice is done some other way? How does her life turn out? Is there a sequel?

The temptation is to make it nice and neat and provide the reader with closure. That's a rare commodity in real life and one that I think is overrated. Life is loose ends and I'm okay with that.

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