Friday, August 21, 2009

Saving Ideas . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

Once again I'm shocked right down to my socks by a television news story. This one is about a preemie baby yanked out of his crib and carried outside by the family dog. A sixty-five pound dog, by the way, which had been the family pet since puppy hood and had never caused so much as a moment's concern until then. Mom and dad somehow got wind of the dire circumstances while working to make the house safer for the kids and dashed into the baby's room to find him gone. They chased the dog down and found him outside at the edge of the woods near their property . . . without the baby. Then they had to hunt for the baby. And keep in mind, mom had just had this child a few days before and was in no condition to be dashing around in the woods. Dash, she did, locating the baby before dad did.

The child suffered some very serious injuries. Last I heard he was in intensive care, and I don't know if he survived or not. And I'm not making judgments here about whether or not people should have small children and large dogs at the same time. Been there, done that. This was a very unusual case. But it reminds me once again that we writers can NOT write stuff this strange. No one would believe it, even in science fiction. I certainly would have scoffed at a novel containing this baby-napping scenario. Wouldn't you?

Watching or reading about the news can be upsetting. I recently heard one news story that I won't share here because it involved the death of a small child in very unusual circumstances and there's no need all of us having nightmares at the same time. BUT the national news lets us know what's going on in our country and around the world in ways that wasn't always possible many years ago. And while much of it is disturbing, there is a lot that is interesting and some downright funny, like the guy I read about who was arrested for DUI (remember that's DRIVING under the influence) while riding a horse. Who knew?

I have a big fat file full of stories like that, cut from the newspaper or printed off the Internet. So many that I even had to separate them into categories, like accidents, illness (that file includes a graphic picture of a hand swollen from snake bite which I figured I might need to know about someday but still, ick) firearms, etc. When I'm totally dry of writing ideas, I can access that file and see if something sparks inspiration.

And I DO use those ideas. My second book, MURDER BEYOND METROPOLIS, was based largely on the news story I'd read about an accident that happened at a nursing home, killing several patients. My first thought on reading it was "murder!" But a thorough investigation proved it truly was an accident. Never mind, I could still make it into a murder and use it in my story, and I did.

If you are a writer, particularly if you are just getting started, keep a file of news stories that catch your eye. You might want that information later and likely won't be able to find it. And when you come across the truly disturbing stories, try not to let them keep you awake nights. Anybody have a sleeping pill?


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Truth is definitely stranger than fiction! You're right...there are things on the news that we just can't make up.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...

One of the most strange and disturbing books I have read is BLUE ROSE by Peter Straub. For those unfamiliar with it, it deals with a disfunctional family with two sons. One learns hypnosis and hypnotizes the other with tragic consequences. It seemed such a believable story that it haunted me for days until I finally put the book in the garbage, not wanting to share it with anyone or go back to ever read it again. It is a great read, and one that will stay in your mind. Mary Beth

Julia Buckley said...

Lonnie, how horrible! I was going to say maybe the dog thought of the baby as a puppy, but not if it hurt the baby, which it obviously did.

I have heard that dogs are confused about very small humans because something in their primitive brains cannot see them as their superiors.

I was never nervous around dogs until I had kids. Now I don't trust any dogs, including mine (that is, I keep an eye on him around my children).

Sandra Parshall said...

Lonnie, I *would* believe such a story if I read it in a novel. People with pets have to be very careful when a new baby comes into the family. You cannot possibly know what's going in the dog's or cat's mind when it sees and hears this tiny creature who is utterly unlike the adult people it knows. The dog could have seen the baby as an invader who had to be removed, or a competitor for mom and dad's attention. You simply can't know, and you can't take any chances.

The most horrifying child/animal story I've heard recently was about a small child crushed to death by the parents' pet... python. Why on earth would any parents keep an adult python in the same house with a small child? Why would anybody keep a python in a house at all? Snakes are not pets. It's cruel to them and dangerous to people (and other animals) to keep them in such a totally unnatural environment.

The true stories I have trouble watching on TV are those on the magazine shows. The victims in the stories the producers choose to tell are almost always women or children. Why do you suppose that is?