A brief moment can change our lives, much as a brief moment can change the lives of characters in books.
You’ve probably heard stories about someone who was caught in a traffic jam and missed a plane, only to find out later that the plane crashed. I have a friend whose mother got up during the night to get a drink of water during a heavy wind and rain storm. Her husband got up to see if she was okay. While they were in the kitchen a tree fell, crashing through the roof and landing on their bed.
True stories, and yet if you read them in a book you might think they’re not realistic. Strange things happen, and they can change our lives. You know the old saying about truth being stranger than fiction.
I remind myself of these things when I’m writing. If I want the characters’ lives to be realistic, then I need to remember that circumstances can change the outcome of a story, even if that circumstance only lasts for a brief moment.
Timing can be everything. What if Jane Doe hadn’t bent over to pick up the olive she dropped on the floor in the kitchen? The killer hiding outside her window would have fired his gun and hit her. However, since she did bend over, the bullet would have missed her and rammed harmlessly through a wall. What if Jane had been heading for the airport I mentioned above? She could have been on the plane that crashed.
I dropped my comb one morning while doing my hair and found a favorite earring I’d lost. I never would have found it if I hadn’t dropped my comb. It had landed in an odd spot. Many years ago I had an expensive piece of jewelry sitting on my dresser. It sat there for three weeks. One morning I was about to leave for work when I suddenly decided I should hide it, and I did. That day, while I was at work, someone burglarized my home, but they didn’t find that piece of jewelry. True story.
On her way to town, Minnie decided to take a new route to the store and missed a major accident. She couldn’t tell you why she changed her normal routine and route.
Yes, Virginia, coincidences do happen, probably more often than we might think. A brief moment can change the course of a person’s life, a sudden thirst during a storm might save a life, and dropping on object might lead you to find a lost treasure.
I know someone who was working on her genealogy. She came from a good, fine, upstanding family and was quite surprised to find out her ancestors were thieves and killers. Fortunately, she had a great sense of humor and found the light side to her discoveries. The fact that they were in the distant past certainly helped.
There are so many things that happen in real life that can be used in stories. It’s all a matter of deciding how to present the incident as fiction. Does life imitate fiction? Or does fiction imitate life?
Sometimes we have to tread lightly. Other times the incidents in a book should be as bold as possible. This is where common sense steps in.
How do you decide what might make a good scene or idea for a story? As a reader, do you sometimes wonder if there’s any truth in the mystery you’re reading?
A number of my books have at least a modicum of truth in them. It’s up to the reader to try to guess what’s true and what’s not.
Until next week, I hope a special brief moment or coincidence visits your life and brightens your week.
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I can’t recall if I mentioned it or not, but Bubba’s Ghost – A Sandi Webster Mystery is now available in audio format.
If you haven’t read it yet, One Adventure Too Many – A Sandi Webster Mystery was recently released.
Sandi’s mother and her aunt are ready for an adventure. Unfortunately, their idea of an adventure involved a dead body and a young woman in hiding.