By Nancy Cole Silverman
I don’t know why it is writers see mystery in the everyday occurrences. Perhaps it has something to do with the way we’re wired. I’ve never been certain if artists were more sensitive than, let’s say, engineers or mathematicians. But I do think writers often feel and see things on a more multi-dimensional platform that allows them to slip in and out of reality with ease. How else could they dream up such bizarre plots with unexpected twists that have their fans reaching for the next book?
For instance, the other day, I stood next to a woman at the butchers while she ordered a half-pound of ground beef. She waited patiently, while I, having also ordered a half-pound of ground beef, felt sudden panic. Visions of Sweeny Todd flashed through my head as I watched the butcher process the meat through the grinder. I noticed his bloody apron and signs posted around the market. No doubt they were of specials, but in my mind, they had morphed into Missing Person Signs. The butcher perhaps? Thinking back on it, it was crazy. But, for writers, imagination takes flight at will. Through no fault of our own, the seed for the story is planted and begs to be written, threatening its host with insanity until completed.
One of my favorite authors, Nora Ephron, once said, “Everything is copy.” That’s one of the advantages of being an older writer. We’ve got a lot of baggage. Things from which we can pull for plot and character.
In my most recent book, Without a Doubt, I took from my own experiences in talk radio for the opening scene. In it, Carol Childs, my protagonist, is doing a live on-air tour of several Beverly Hills’ chocolatiers for a holiday charity campaign. Nothing unusual about that. That was until Carol spots Eric, her FBI boyfriend, as he exits Henry Weston’s, with a well-known Hollywood socialite on his arm, right before a bomb goes off and her world explodes.
It’s the type of thing that can happen to a reporter when least expected. Newsrooms are never dull. Some days are frantic, other days so slow the lead story might be anything from Fido finding his way home, to a birthday celebration for a zoo animal. One news station I worked for even covered the escape and apprehension of a white cobra in the hills above Malibu.
So, did any of what happens to my protagonist actually happen to me? Yes and no. Bits and pieces of it, at different times, and with different stories, but none of it exactly as it happens in my book. And like the ebb and flow of the newsroom, each of my books is of a slightly different tone. Without a Doubt is more of a caper than a conventional mystery. But in writing them all, I’ve drawn from my experiences and the emotions I felt at the time.
How about you? As a writer are there experiences or emotions you try to recall as you write to add clarity and believability to your work?
Nancy Cole Silverman credits her twenty-five years in radio for helping her to develop an
ear for storytelling. In 2001 Silverman retired from news and copywriting to write fiction fulltime. In 2014, Silverman signed with Henery Press for her new mystery series, The Carol Childs’ Mysteries. The first of the series, Shadow of Doubt, debuted in December 2014 and the second, Beyond a Doubt, debuted July 2015. Coming soon, in 2016, is the third in the series, Without A Doubt. Silverman also has written a number of short stories, many of them influenced by her experiences growing up in the Arizona desert. For more information visit www.nancycolesilverman.com