When Life and Writing Overlap

Many writers claim they feel compelled to write. I am not one of them. I either write or don’t write depending on whether there is anything “real” going on in my life or not. Most of the time, real life is going on, so I feel no need to write. (Except for blogging, of course. I do that every day no matter what.)

There is one thing that does compel me to write fiction and that is when a story gets in my head and writing it is the only way to clear it out of my mind.

I’ve been planning to write a story about my exercise group, and I can’t write it until I’ve finished another, non-writerly project. (I am so not a multi-tasker!) Meantime, the story goes round and round in my head as I try to figure out the logistics of the plot. For example, I thought I knew who the murderer is, but he turns out to be a secondary gunman, someone who will writingbe caught up in the police investigation. I did figure out what the victim was doing at the studio, how she got inside, when she was killed, and why she was wearing what she was wearing. The murderer is still up for grabs.

Besides trying to figure out the story, I’ve been researching what will happen to those of us who find the body. Will the cops simply take names and contact information? Will they keep us near the scene? Take us down to the police station? It’s amazing how many mysteries are from the POV of cops or the cozy little old (and sometimes cozy young) woman who is playing amateur detective. Little is written about the moment-to-moment demands on the would-be witnesses. In movies, TV shows, books, you see the witnesses, bystanders, body watchers/catchers/snatchers or whoever already talking to the cops. How did they get to that point?

I know it’s time to write the story to get it out of my head when strange thoughts start ricocheting around in my brain, thoughts like, “I don’t have to do the research to find out what will happen to us witnesses. When the cops come to the studio after the murder, I’ll be able to see first hand what they do to us.”

Yesterday I even heard myself thinking, “I better clean the house. If the cops come here, I don’t want them to know how messy I am.”

I’m sure some of these thoughts are showing up because real life will overlap fiction. The women in my dance class are all part of the story and I . . . well, I am the narrator, a suspect, possibly the amateur detective. (Someone even suggested I should be the killer. It’s a clever twist, but Agatha Christie already used the ploy in The Murder of Roger Akroyd and besides, it felt like a betrayal when she did it, and I don’t like cheating my readers.)

Whatever the reason for the stange thoughts, I’ll be glad when it’s time to start putting the story on paper and out of my head. It’s getting just a bit confusing.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

6 Responses to “When Life and Writing Overlap”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    This story sounds better and better the more you write about it here.

  2. Kathy Says:

    “I’d better clean the house before the cops arrive.” That is so funny, Pat! I’m really getting into this, too. I know what you mean about writing because you have a need to tell a story. I think that’s why I’m not writing – I think I may have told all the stories I needed to tell – at least for now. I’m also getting into my music again and then there’s a new writing contract here locally. Anyway, can’t wait to hear more about this new caper of yours.

  3. Coco Ihle Says:

    Keep at it, Pat. You’ll know when the time is ripe to write. 🙂

  4. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    Having a clean house makes people look innocent.

  5. Frelisa Walker Says:

    I know how you feel. My story start off as a Brazilian assassin chasing after her mother-in-law for killing her husband and kids. I outline the story but couldn’t start writing the first draft for more than a year. And now I have a Brazilian assassin and a school teacher as a crime fighter. I want to finish this novel once and for all. I’m embarrassed to say it has been nearly four years. It’s ridiculous. I just want to get the story out my head. I’ve got the title One Death At A Time and I’m sticking with it and the plot summary. And I will keep writing until I finish. One tip I suggest is make notes of how the story keeps changing in your head. You may can use some of them to make the plot juicier.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Good points! It is interesting how the longer a story is in our head, the more it seems to change. I have a couple of novels that I’ve been working on sporadically for the past seven years, but since they aren’t in my head, there’s no reason to write them.

      Best of luck with finishing your story!

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