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?