Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of originations is brought to you by crime novelist Neil Yuzuk.
Where Do Stories Come From?
Doc Ostrow: But the Krell forgot one thing.
Commander John J. Adams: Yes, what?
Doc Ostrow: Monsters, John. Monsters from the Id.
“Monsters from the Id” That famous line comes from the 1956 science-fiction movie, “Forbidden Planet”. Where do our stories come from? Do they come from our Ids, our experiences, our imaginations? Are they a result of some sort of wish fulfillment? I don’t know the specific answer, but I suspect that it’s varying degrees of those things I listed and possibly more that are not listed.
Sometimes stories and writing careers come about in the oddest way. Lois Lewandowski (author of the Gillian Jones mysteries) and I were exchanging emails about the use of forensics in our novels. I told her how Chapter 10 in my latest book, “Beachside PD: The Gypsy Hunter” came about and she urged me to share the story. In actuality, it is a murder mystery that is discovered and solved by the main character in that one chapter.
I called it “The Wrong Man Scenario” and it runs 6,230 words. A woman is found naked and dead in her bed by her husband. Her face is battered and bloody, and she’s been strangled with a scarf. Asleep next to her is a large almost naked man, who has blood spatter on his T-shirt and his knuckles are bruised and raw. A scented candle is burning, there are wine bottles and glasses near the bed and a Barry White CD is playing. The crime scene suggests a sexual encounter that went very wrong.
An open and shut case. But what if he didn’t do it?
Let’s start at the beginning and go back almost four years. I had just retired from my job as a Substance Abuse Prevention Counselor for a New York City high school. One year later, my relationship of 15 years ended—badly—and I was at very loose ends. My son David, a full-time police officer and part-time actor said, “Hey Pops, why don’t you write a movie script for me?” I’d never written more than a couple of short stories and several stage plays about at-risk teenagers for my students to perform for their peers.
So I wrote a script called “The Devil’s Troll” which was a terrific story, but written not so terrifically. However, I found that I had a knack for creating memorable characters and in writing this first time effort I developed research skills, skills that have stayed with me. Robert McKee, in his STORY seminar said, “Write the truth” and I did. Whatever I wrote afterwards, was carefully researched, believable and timelines were observed.
I worked on several more scripts and when David had an idea for a movie, we collaborated on, “The Reluctant Knight.” That became the basis for my first novel, “Beachside PD: The Reluctant Knight” and a crime series was born. David’s cop buddies were generous in sharing their stories and helping me to be real in my fictive telling of those stories.
On one trip down to Florida, I was introduced to a police officer whose name I cannot share. His pseudonym in the book was Robert Zaragossa and he is the real life Gypsy Hunter. There was a major problem in sharing his stories, they were not believable. It was the old story of, truth is stranger than fiction and the difference between fiction and reality, is that fiction needs to be believable.
Reality: There is a Gypsy on death row in Florida. In the book, “Beachside PD: The Gypsy Hunter” it takes Robert eight days to capture him. In real life, he did it in three and a half days using a telephone.
Reality: A four-year-old Gypsy girl is kidnapped by her Gypsy father in a custody battle with the Gypsy mother. One year later—the girl is still missing. Robert is asked to get involved and after two days of telephone calls the now five year old was turned over to the authorities.
I needed a non-Gypsy case to emphasize Robert’s dogged determination—he is a self-described pit bull. There was one such case, but it involves an undercover work and can’t be written at this time
So there I was in Aventura, Florida, at the Bagel Cove (a culinary refuge for New York Jews) having breakfast along with Police Lieutenant Bryan Pegues . . . and over bagels we began to plot murder.
Bryan shared several cases and we started with a carjacking that led to a second case that occurred where and when the carjackers were caught. Then we discussed various real “locked room” murder cases. But the one we selected was never solved. We created a murder scenario, without a specific solution and I left there, with a full tummy and four possible, rather shaky, and unbelievable solutions. It looked like our putative murderer, Martin Luther King “Bull” Belinsky, had played his last football game for the Miami Dolphins and was headed to death row.
I chewed on possible solutions, but none of them worked. Finally, I put one and one and one and one together and got four—a solution that combined good detective work, solid forensics, a witness to evidence (not the crime) and finally, luck. The case was solved and the killer was nailed. The answer evolved through the writing of the chapter.
But who was the killer, you ask? And well, you may. You can find the answer to that question in “The Gypsy Hunter,” Chapter 10.
Thank you, Neil.
Neil L. Yuzuk (pictured right) was born in Brooklyn, New York. Now retired after twenty-two years, as a SPARK Substance Abuse Prevention Counselor, he wrote Beachside PD: The Reluctant Knight, after collaborating with his police officer son on a screenplay of the same name. The book was a finalist in the Global eBook Awards in the category of suspense / thriller.
The second book in the series is Beachside PD: The Gypsy Hunter and third book is entitled Beachside PD: Undercover. He has also written a screenplay: Fade To Light. Another book, Zaragossa: Fruit of the Vine is in the works.
Neil and his co-author son David are the authors of the Beachside PD series and their website is http://www.BeachsidePDBooks.com. You can also watch their video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20e_i39GaQA and their print / eBooks are available at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Smashwords.
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.
The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with YA author and guest blogger Anna White – the four hundred and seventy-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.