Often the tiny details, some never revealed in the story, or mere hints, emerge from the author’s own life experience.
A little later my father, an Episcopal priest, who devoured Georges Simenon with the Larousse by his side listened to The Whistler and The Shadow as we drove each Sunday from services in Arroyo Grande to services in Atascadero, California.
As we drove along the oceanfront and then inland to rolling hills and oak trees, the mysteries and revelations of human behavior gone wrong fascinated my young imagination. The question The Shadow asked at the beginning of each episode made me wonder about every person I met: Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
That question was the start my lifelong pastime of making up stories about strangers I saw. As an adult, my notebooks filled with sketches of people I saw who sparked some mini-story in my head. An innocuous looking housewife who harbored a secret jealousy that ate at her heart. A hobo—now street person—who had once been (fill in the blank).
Observation: The Author Skill
I didn’t find my voice as a fiction writer until I started writing mysteries with a central character who delves into moral ambiguities in a time when murder was not a crime.
All those mini-stores over the years were accumulated into flawed character background to challenge my protagonist with their secrets. A person can do good in the world and yet perform a base evil like murder.
Those observations of strangers—how they moved their hands, or walked, or stood at attention ramrod straight or with drooping shoulders—help populate stories with characters with idiosyncrasies and deep or shallow motivations.
Her’s is not a name on everyone’s lips. However others have romanticized her. (See image above)
When Robert Guiscard saw her he dropped everything stunned by her presence, divorced his wife, and married her.
Married with children (9)
Fought at his side in full armour in battles
Loyal to the end over many years (27) until his death
I admired her because she was not a single woman with superpowers defying all odds but an embodiment of a multi-faceted woman.
Real People, Heroes, and Imaginings
Zara Altair writes mysteries set in ancient Italy. Argolicus thinks he has retired, but he and his tutor, Nikolaos, are drawn into puzzles, politics, and murder.
She consults with a select group of writers as The Story Bodyguard.
The bulk of this article was originally posted as a response to David Amerland’s Sunday Read: Superpowers, June 4, 2017.