FINDING INSPIRATION AS A MYSTERY WRITER

 

Often when I tell someone that I am a writer their first question is always “What do you write?” The answer to that is easy, I write mysteries. Most of them are legal mysteries where an attorney is the main character, but I do enjoy writing mysteries in other genres. Usually the next question is where do I get my inspiration.

Inspiration can come from any source. Some people find their inspiration in a country song, either the lyrics or the title. Others find their stories embedded in historical events and create a fictional character who was there. There are those who design the coolest spaceship known to mankind and unfold their story in its travels.  I would have to say that my greatest inspiration is the law which, I’m just guessing here, is properly the inspiration for many legal mystery writers.

I have never been able to point to any definite moment when I said, “OMG – that’s a story”.  So I looked over the outlines I have developed for the sequels to my novel, IMMUNE FROM PROSECUTION, and tried to remember exactly what was the catalyst to its development?  Nothing comes to mind.  There were no great moments of epiphany while watching the news, attending a conference or getting a manicure which I can point to.

I do, however, remember the questions I asked myself which led to the storylines: Can US citizenship be imposed upon someone against their will? For a police officer, how far is too far undercover, where is the line drawn and who draws it?  If a murderer can’t inherit from their victim, can the murder’s children inherit instead? Once I asked myself the original question I felt compelled to seek out an answer. Sometimes all it took was a quick Google search. Other times I realized that hours, or days, had gone by while I researched the answer. It was not until I had an answer to my question that the idea that this could be the basis for a story even occurred to me.

For me the fun begins once I decide what legal problem brought the character to an attorney because now I get to decide how the hell they got into such a mess in the first place. How does a woman who would never consider keeping the ‘too much’ change in the grocery store or not putting the shopping cart in the parking lot corral end up charged with vehicle homicide and grand theft auto? – Just writing that last sentence has my mind reeling over the endless possibilities.

There is always some subtlety in the law, some nuance in its understanding, which lends itself to a legal mystery. In my case, it is often the character’s misunderstanding that lands them in hot water or behind bars, possibly for the rest of their life. Sometimes I feel bad writing characters into such dire situations, but it can’t be helped. When it comes to a legal mystery someone’s got to be in trouble.

Where do you get your inspiration?