Thanks to author Glen Allison for his guest post today. Glen writes the Forte suspense novels, featuring New Orleans child rescue specialist Al Forte.
A teenaged girl is found wandering the hard streets of New York. She doesn't know who she is. Or where she came from. Or how she got there. Her fingerprints lead nowhere.
On her arm is scrawled a birthday greeting and some Chinese characters.
She does recall some lines from a fantasy novel. She found herself reciting them. Why? What does it mean? She has no idea.
Sounds like the start of a mystery novel, doesn't it? Nope. True story. It was in yesterday's (Friday, October 23, 2009) news.
But here's the thing: I have a novel idea that involves an amnesiac kid. Think I'm not going to swipe a scintillating fact or two from the lost girl story?
Maybe you should, too. (Not this story but some other story that smacks you in your news collector.)
My point is this: There are stranger-than-fiction tidbits flying past us all the time, true tales of intrigue that are there for the picking. If we will only open our eyes and see them. And reach out and pluck them.
Don't worry about copyright violations and lawsuits. You aren't going to use the facts and act like you made them up. You are going run the real-life stuff through the creative mazes of that pinball mind of yours and by the time the idea goes DING, it will be your own concoction of mysterious fictional fun.
Off the top of my head, here's how I would use the true lost girl in a story: Remember the fantasy novel the girl is quoting? I'd have the author of that book behind it all. Maybe she staged the whole situation to give herself some buzz for her book. But something happened. The girl was intercepted by nefarious cads and brainwashed. Those Chinese symbols on the girl's arm? They are a code for something more sinister. Something that bodes trouble for the “lost girl” and the author both.
See how it works? Go loosen up your Weird-O-Meter as you scan the news. You'll crazy up your stories a bit. And your readers will benefit.
Glen C. Allison Author of the Forte suspense series http://torturedhero.com/ @glen_allison