Shelf full of crime novels

Ideas For Writing Crime Stories

A question I get asked all the time is: Where do you get your ideas for writing your crime novels?

One of the benefits of being a crime writer is having access to the steady stream of ideas generated by people doing what I see as ‘interesting’ things.

In the last week alone, three incidents I came across while reading online news sites would qualify as potential triggers for crime stories my team of investigators could take an interest in. 

One of the more interesting incidents involved a group of four elderly people who went to a friend’s place for lunch, only to fall ill over the next few days and be admitted to hospital suffering from the effects of death cap mushroom poisoning. Three of them died within a week, while, at the time of writing, the fourth was still in hospital fighting for his life.

There were three other people at the lunch, the hostess and her two children, who for some reason didn’t consume any of the mushrooms. Perhaps they didn’t like mushrooms. I know people who don’t. But who knows what really happened? 

Without knowing anything else about the circumstances or the people, there is enough information there to build a story through inventing a history of the people involved, including a potential conflict that would drive one of them to poison the others. After all, I write murder mysteries.

In reality, the whole incident could be an innocent accident involving mis-identification of mushrooms, since their deaths aren’t the first to be attributed to people eating death cap mushrooms after a day’s foraging by the cook or someone else.

Two other stories that made the news this week included the discovery of a man’s body in a lake near a golf course, and the discovery of a woman’s body wrapped in a curtain behind a wall at the back of a suburban apartment building. Plenty of scope for suspicion with either of those for someone like me.

As a storyteller, I don’t need to know the exact details or the real backstories of the victims. Those news reports contain enough details to be expanded into the stories of how those bodies ended up where they were found. 

What it takes is a little imagination, coupled with a working knowledge of human relationships, and an appreciation of the various ways in which things go wrong between people.

There’s no magic to where the ideas come from. The magic comes from watching what happens when I let my investigators loose on what those ideas suggest.

Featured Photo by Aneta Pawlik on Unsplash