Thursday, August 11, 2016

How To Begin Stories Inspired By Actual Events

by Paffi S. Flood

Someone please write a story about an intrepid reporter trying to unveil the truth behind the CEO of a media conglomerate. One that also contains sex, psychological torture, defamation, and bribery.

Oh, never mind, it’s already happened. In real life. And once again, reality beats anything that can be made up.

I’ve been glued to this story off and on since mid-July when an on-air host of a cable television show filed a sexual harassment suit against her boss.

Soon after, tales of sex for favors, sex for domination, payoff for silence, and just plain intimidation, maybe even illegal, began to trickle out.

As a writer, when I’m inspired by articles such as these, one of the first thoughts I have is from whose point of view do I tell this story? Is it through the eyes of the ingenue, who was forced to barter sex for employment, or the ruthless media head paranoid of losing power? Maybe it's the on-air host who started the ball rolling, or the journalist who had been reporting on the conglomerate for years?

If I wanted the reader to experience everything anew, I’d write about the naive newcomer. I'd detail the excitement of her first job in a large city, of her making more money than she ever dreamed and of getting extravagant attention from “a man in charge.”

On the other hand, if I wanted the reader to experience something cynical, I'd write about the on-air host and how her life doesn’t reflect the glamour of her work, or of the tough investigative reporter, who thinks he’s seen everything, until he comes across this particular scoop.

And, let’s all agree that writing it from the point of view of the media head would create a novel similar to American Psycho, and that can only be done in the hands of the truly gifted. 

A Gillian Flynn, perhaps.

After I've figured out who's going to tell the story, I ask myself what type of story will I tell.

Will it be a mystery? Does the CEO's daughter find his body? And as she investigates his death, does she also discover his exploits? All of them? Then, with everything she knows, will she try to make it right? Or will she cover it up, because what makes him powerful also gives her standing in society?

Maybe it’s a thriller? Does the on-air host suspect she’s being followed and spill the beans to a washed-up journalist, who reports on police malfeasance, something that her cable network just happens to not cover? And as they unearth the seamy underbelly of media, are both their lives threatened, with one even dying?

Or a contemporary? Will the ingenue survive being a sex slave to the CEO? And afterwards, does she figure out how to help others who are in the same predicament?

And, at last, a favorite from the past few years, a dystopian? 2016 through 1984 by taking Big Brother to a whole new level.

Once these two angles are figured out, I let my imagination soar, because as we all know, nothing in art is as cray-cray as real life.


Paffi S. Flood is the author of A Killing Strikes Home. You can also find her on twitter and facebook.

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