A Who-Done-It? Where do I even begin? Then, I decided to go with 'write what you know', kind of.
I remembered a frightening incident when my son was about four years old. He was out with his Dad, looking for a pair of lost hunting dogs. On the edge of town, they pulled into a dead end street with a large turn-around. Seeing no sign of the dogs, they moved on with their search. There were two cars parked in that same area, with a man and a woman sitting in the one car. Another man, up the street, was shovelling snow from his driveway. It was a beautiful winter’s day.
Sunday, I was reading the paper and came across the story of a murder, reported to have taken place in our town the day before. When I read the details to my husband he was shocked, for he had been there, close to the given time. The article stated the police were looking for the driver of a blue, half ton truck, and, of course, that was my husband.
Nut shell version, an angry boyfriend, not willing to be an ex-boyfriend, stabbed his heart’s desire, multiple times. He tried to make it look like he was also attacked, by stabbing himself, before he drove his car into a snow bank up the road.
Perfect situation of wrong place, wrong time. It gave us a few bad days, something you don’t easily forget. By the way, the guy had a violent history, and caught in a lie, he eventually confessed.
So, back to my story. I’m thinking, a witness to a crime, her being on the scene is just happenstance.
But who is my victim? Here I needed to diverge from my reality, and thought about another murder in our fair town. This time a body was found in the lake, a young woman from the city, whose identity was not immediately known.
I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about our usually peaceful, small town. These violent episodes were thirty years apart, though it's an unfortunate sign of the times, crime and violence can happen anywhere.
I had my beginning. A woman sits by the lake on a winter’s day, witness to a couple having an argument, she leaves the area. Days later, a woman’s body is found at the edge of the lake, her identity unknown.
Here was where my research began. I searched the archives of the local paper, plus the city paper where the real murdered woman lived. This gave me an idea of how the investigation proceeded, by what the police reported to the media.
I admit I use places that are familiar in my writing, as I like a visual in my head, so everything falls under the disclaimer…
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
My murdered woman lived in the city, so she needed a job and a place to live. And there had to be a tie in to the small town. In my web search, I found downtown hotels that cater to out of town businessmen. I viewed maps, read all the promotional material and finally decided on the
Within walking distance to the downtown core of hospitals and the U of T, it was
large enough to offer a sense of anonymity. Delta
For a place to live? Not the real estate ads this time, but the rentals, my victim was not affluent enough to buy in the city. I found her a lovely rental on
Yonge Street, steps from shopping and the
My witness also needed a place to live, and I gave her a rental apartment in a converted triplex, loosely based on one that I had been in a number of years ago. She also needed a career, something in the medical field, I thought, but not a nurse.
I decided on Medical Transcriptionist. I researched the education requirements, and the daily job description. I had reason to be in the hospital, and wandered up to the Medical Records Department, and actually spoke to one of the staff. I also talked to a nurse I knew about computerized health charts, as I’m an old time, old-school nurse, and computers were after my time.
A word of advice, don’t waste your time, or the time of someone you’re hoping to interview for their expertise, by being unorganized. If you have questions that, up to that point, you've found no answers for, write them down. Think it through, figure out exactly what you need to know before any interview. Like the Girl Guides, 'Be Prepared'.
As we’re in a hospital setting, you know there’s going to be a doctor. But what’s his specialty, and for what purpose would he be in the city?
I searched the data on several large teaching hospitals and learned how the physicians have their specialties, and their responsibilities as Clinician, Educator or Lecturer. It was very interesting, and just what I needed to develop one of my characters.
I had pages and pages of notes, a slew of print-outs and added everything to my story binder. You will always have more research, more information, than will ever make its way into your book, but it's all important for you to understand who and what you're writing about.
So, I have my setting, my precipitating incident, and a cast of characters, what was I missing? Oh yeah, the police and their investigation.