By Norma Huss
Writers find ideas everywhere. One of my ideas for a novel (in final drafts) came from a rural road sign. (The road's name may disappear even more completely than the murder victim.) An idea for a published short story came from more than a year of news about a murder and the trial.
One of my favorite idea generators is my local paper's weekly Flashback column. One recent story, originally from August, 1910, told about the strange thefts of soap from the basement lavatories of the local post office. The thefts were solved when a large dead rat and 16 pounds of soap bars were found behind a locker. It appeared the rat had stolen each soap bar as it was replaced and dragged it sixty feet to its hiding place. The short item noted that it hadn't been determined if the rat starved to death or died from eating soap.
How could I spin that into a mystery with human consequences? An historic mystery with the boss docking the employee for stealing the soap before the rat was discovered, then the employee killing his boss? Other animals steal things. Crows steal shiny objects, perhaps? Someone's antique ring? Update the time to the current year? Or go forward to a future time with a story about a super mosquito that is trained to steal military secrets. Or is it a robot mosquito? Or how about a robot bear? Or a real bear five hundred years ago doing away with caches of food and the ensuing battle among hungry tribes?
Another article from July 1960, a mere fifty years ago, tells about a local fire
company's bicentennial celebration with a bottle of 100-year-old French brandy. There were 200 guests. The brandy that had been stored in a chest in the bank vault a century earlier, was mixed into a large bowl of punch. Everyone received a cup full, the mayor gave a toast, and the punch was consumed within seconds.
Nothing criminal there, right? But think of the possibilities. Your question for today is this:
How could that item be altered to create a mystery?
Today's question by Norma Huss of the Sinc Blog Army, author of Yesterday's Body. http://www.normahuss.com