Friday, July 8, 2011

Plotting from the News

By Chester Campbell

Many authors use newspapers to find ideas for plots. Mine come from a variety of sources, but I sometimes turn to the news for possibilities. The way it gets twisted during the writing process may depend on lots of factors.

The new Sid Chance mystery I just finished, The Good, The Bad and The Murderous, got its start from a segment I saw on CBS about FBI agents in Miami who chased down Medicare fraud. It showed storefront operations supposedly providing durable medical equipment that were in reality Medicare scams. They billed the government for such items as battery-powered wheel chairs that were neither ordered nor delivered. It costs Medicare millions and millions of dollars yearly.

That was my initial plot idea but, of course, it had to involve a murder. So I decided to kill off the crook who ran it. Then I saw a newspaper feature (actually several stories one Sunday) about kids who commit murder and are sent to prison. It told of Nashville's youngest murderer recently released from prison at age twenty-five. He had shot a man during a drug deal at age twelve.

I created a character based on him, having the newly-released prisoner falsely accused of murdering the medical equipment store owner. My PI and his sometimes partner, wealthy ex-cop Jaz LeMieux, are hired by the young man's grandmother to prove his innocence.

The child murderer in the newspaper story was black, and so was my character. To complicate matters for my PI's, I had Jaz facing false accusations of racial harassment in connection with her role as chairman of a chain of travel centers.

Adding another plot twist from the news, I brought in links to a Mexican drug gang. One advantage of using subjects currently in the news is the ability to promote the book as "ripped from the headlines." Okay, maybe not in those words, but you get the idea.

The novel, my second Sid Chance mystery, will be out in the fall.

Visit me at Mystery Mania


Morgan Mandel said...

Goes to show how one idea can spark another when imagination takes over and you get into the flow.
Morgan Mandel

Jean Henry Mead said...

Sounds like an intriguing story, Chester. I enjoy plots that raise social awareness and I try to include them in my own books.

Helen Ginger said...

I like that you made the book current and layered. You have a lot going on in the story.

J D Webb said...

I like to use the term stretch a lot when I'm writing my PI series. You've done that here, Chester. Always a good move I think. Looking forward to your fall release. Should be timely. Good luck.