Why the Well Never Runs Dry

Happy 2013 to you! I have no idea where the time goes, but it is hard to believe that Christmas was just a bit over three weeks ago. I know where the time went: I was gifted with a time bandit popularly known as a “Kindle Fire,” and I have been carrying it everywhere with me. You can read with it, write with it (with a bit of smacking called “sideloading,” which we won’t get into here, at least not today), and also derive inspiration from it, should you lack an idea to use as a springboard for a novel or story. The Kindle Fire enables you to surf the web, as so many objects do, and if you can surf the web, you can visit news websites, and if you can visit news websites, you can find ideas for stories, novels, and even a series…whatever you want your next project to be.
I start each day by reading the web versions of my local paper, my (former) hometown paper, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and The Drudge Report. There is always something that can serve as a springboard for a tale. This past week in New Orleans two women were arrested in a downtown hotel and charged with prostitution. One of them had a baby with her. A prostitution arrest in New Orleans is not unusual; the presence of a baby…that’s something else. The infant, as innocent as an innocent can be, was placed with Child Services.  I wondered: what is going to happen to this child? Will he placed in foster care and live happily ever after? Or will he be returned to mom who then bounces him from town to town along the Gulf Coast, viewing life through the windows of a series of seedy hotel rooms? Or worse? There are a several potential possibilities here, all of them interesting, though few of them are pleasant. I subsequently encountered another gem. Submitted for your perusal: a 911 operator in Illinois receives a call from a church rectory. The caller identifies himself as a priest and requests assistance. He is handcuffed and needs to be freed. He is hard to understand, due to the fact that his voice is muffled by the mask he is wearing. This occurrence was reported by several newspapers, whose reporters had a jolly good time writing witty headlines for the story. But…but…while I had my own chuckle over the report (I am unfortunately unable in many circumstances to resist a wallow or two in the lake of schadenfreude, even when the poor devil involved could have been me!) I couldn’t help but wonder: what seemingly innocent path in life, no doubt encountered years, even decades, previously, led the padre to his unfortunate public humiliation of that particular night? You could obtain twenty different guesses from twenty different people and there is an excellent possibility that none of them would be the same, or, for that matter, correct. 
So you think you’re out of story ideas? You’re not. Read the news and try to pick only one story that you could transform into a bestselling work of fiction or award winning tale. If your local paper doesn’t report anything interesting, take a look at The Drudge Report, which isn’t a “report” but rather a page with three dozen or so links to news articles and stories of many varied stripes appearing in periodicals all across the political spectrum. I just checked the page, and found a link to a CBS-NY article about a possible New York mayoral candidate named Joe Lhota. I ask long time Kill Zone contributors and readers: does this perhaps remind you of someone we know? Anyone for a parallel universe story?

Now, if you would please: check your local newspaper this morning, online or otherwise, find an incident that you think would provide the beginning of a great story, and share. What’s happening in your part of the world?

21 thoughts on “Why the Well Never Runs Dry

  1. Well, checking out our local paper’s website, there was a shooting at one of our schools. A kid came with a 12 gauge shotgun to shoot two other kids who had been bullying him. The teacher and superintendent talked him into putting the gun down. He shot one of the bullies and injured the teacher, but nobody was killed.

    Nothing really weird, though.

    • Kessie, part of this story reminds me of a scene from a 1989 movie titled HEATHERS, where a couple of bullies are picking on a new kid in a cafeteria, are brought up short when he pulls a firearm out of his backpack.

      I’d use this article to write a story from the teacher’s point of view. In the story, he wants to save the bullies because he desires to enact his own, much more vicious revenge on them since he has been a victim himself. A-ha!

  2. Well, interesting you should ask Brother Joe. I was perusing the very same Drudge Report this evening and ran across a an interesting tome that came from my own hometown right here in the very Anchorage of the Greatland, aka Alaska.

    Apparently a 61 year old fella decided it would be wise to rob a bank with a hammer. Yes, that’s right, a hammer. According to the article: “When Rice placed the tool on the counter at a teller’s window, a KeyBank employee asked “what he was going to do with the hammer.” After motioning that he would strike teller Houa Vue with the hammer, Rice announced, “I need your money. Give me your 100s and 50s. I’m gonna hit you with this hammer. Hurry up!” Vue handed Rice $1039 and he exited the bank at 2:40 PM. Rice was subsequently arrested several blocks from the KeyBank (a cop found him sitting on a bench). A search of Rice’s backpack turned up a hammer, and “money with a tracking device” was recovered from his pocket.”

    Ah yes, life in the only big city in the Greatland. My thoughts re: Thrillers and this headline. What if the guy is actually a CIA hitman who really just wanted to get into the city jail so that he could kill an imigrant-cabbie type in jail for something relatively innocuous who is actually an active Al Qaeda agent recruiting sympathizers in prison?

    I’m pretty sure the old guy is actually just a homeless bum looking for a warm bed for the rest of the winter, but who knows?

  3. I saw this headline a couple months back, and while maybe not an entire plot, might make a fun character. A guy burnt down his apartment while trying to torch the hide off a squirrel he killed for dinner. I never saw his picture but have formed a picture of him. Oh the comic antics a character like this could provide.

    • That’s good stuff, Julie. I can visualize the opening of the book now, wherein our would be sous chef sits down at a bar, and a woman moves over next to him, breaking the ice with the line, “Nice tooth!”

    • Years ago, we spent the night in Lafayette, Louisiana. Watched the news on TV. Sports came on. It was a thursday night. All of the high school football gamnes had been moved to thursday because saturday morning was the start of squirrel season.

    • There is a town south of me — Circleville — which has a pumpkin show every year which runs from Wednesday to Saturday. NOTHING happens but that pumpkin show on those days. School is shut down, etc. That would be a great backdrop for a cozy, wouldn’t it?

  4. Law & Order took a real crime story for virtually every episode, changing details here and there, adding characters and motives. I recall Chevy Chase playing a film star stopped for DUI, insulting the female cop and going on an anti-Semitic rant. Hmm. . .

    From The Los Angeles Daily News this morning:

    The woman who became the face of the Manti Te’o faux girlfriend mystery kept out of sight Friday as reporters staked out her Torrance office for any bits of information about her role in the saga.

    • I know of at least one person, Jim, who is apparently addicted to these online relationships via e-mail, texting, and the like.

      This morning a friend of mine sent me a nude photo of Te’o’s girlfriend. It was, of course, a picture of a running shower in an empty stall. We live in wondrous times.

  5. — Giuseppe Tedesco took the witness stand in Newton, N.J., in December and swore that all six shots that hit his girlfriend, Alyssa Ruggieri (one of them fatal), were “self-defense” “accidents.” After she discovered his .25-caliber handgun in sofa cushions, he said he reached for it and in the struggle was shot in the hand, but he still managed to grip the gun tightly, and the pair tumbled down some stairs. During the struggle, “both” hands shot Ruggieri twice. Despite their injuries, they both maintained their vice-like grips on the gun, he said, and “they” shot Ruggieri twice more. The final shot, he said, came with Ruggieri holding the gun point-blank at his face, and when he pushed it away, “they” fired another shot that hit Ruggieri in the temple. (At press time, the trial was continuing.) [Star-Ledger (Newark), 12-19-2012]

    • One could do a lot with this story, Jim. Lots of blanks to fill. Why was the deceased going through his sofa cushions? Was she angry with him because she found the gun there, or for another reason? We might need to call Wallace Stroby in to explain all of this to us.

  6. Oh my my, oh hell yes, I love weird news and law.

    One of my trunkers is based on a murder from Tulsa where the killer got stoned and confessed during a seance. He evidently jumped up and ran out yelling, “the old man is coming to get me.” The body was found in a well the next day by some kids and a girl who was at the seance helped the cops put 2 and 2 together.

    In my own court, I was waiting for my client to be brought up when a guy pleaded guilty to arson (burning down a barn). During the allocution, this immortal line was uttered, “And that’s when I lit the moth on fire.”

    In my new job, I inherited email subscriptions to about a hundred different newsletters. I’ve kept a few for inspirational and entertainment value. I highly recommend


    for what’s new in the big scary world.


    • Love that quote about setting the moth on fire, Terri. Being able to conceive of doing such a thing and actually carrying it out would require a unique mindset, to say the least.

  7. Best story in our local rag today:

    The sharks stream in the thousands up South Florida’s coast, a sight that might terrify the people playing in the surf less than a football field away. From a Cessna 172 flying slowly along the beach, Stephen Kajiura videotapes this procession of oceanic predators as they engage in their annual migration from North Carolina.

    Oh wait…somebody already used this in a book I think.

    • Sharks migrating to North Carolina…yeah. I think that the National Association of Trial Lawyers did in fact have their annual meeting Raleigh last year…

  8. Great topic! For me as a sci-fi/technothriller writer, it’s all about science and technology news. I listen to Science Friday on NPR and have about 2 dozen blogs fed to my content aggregater. All I have to do is skim until I find something that could cause some drama. By doing this, I get ideas for stories far, far faster than I can actually write them. We truly live in interesting times.

  9. Thanks, Sechin. I am reminded on an almost daily basis of the Arthur C. Clarke comment that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. We are them.

  10. Wallace! My man! Thanks for the follow-up! I would guess that Mr. Tedesco, when he reaches prison, has a long fall over a high tier in his future, assisted by the iron-toed boot of a correctional guard.

    For my friends who may not be aware: There are few greater gifts a morning can bring than the arrival of a new crime novel from Wallace Stroby.

  11. I find myself looking for story ideas constantly, and I never even considered to read the news for potential story ideas. I am going to give this a try and let you know how it goes!

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