In the Middle of the Night

A big debate among friends and family these days seems to be ‘where did the stories in my books come from?’ Human life is so fascinating, and the drama of relationships so compelling! When something interesting pops into my head, I have learned to run with it, no matter how odd or dark it may seem.
Some scenes are difficult to write; I try to be aware when to tone an idea down, or when it’s safe to take it to the next level. I may continue writing a provocative scene, and then in the middle of the night, wake up and think, ‘ah, no. Better take that out, or soften it up a little bit.’ An example of this struggle is the murder scene in my upcoming book, The Greeks of Beaubien Street, the story of a Greek-American family who own a grocery store in Greektown, Detroit, Michigan. The daughter, Jill Zannos is the main character. The murder scene I refer to is one Jill spends much of her life solving during the length of the novel. It’s a horrific crime that involves graphic scenes. I am debating as I do my preliminary editing when does something serve its purpose in a story, and when does it only titillate? Even the worst crimes may have an element of acceptability in its translation; it is difficult to write when it goes to the level of disgust. But shouldn’t crime disgust? And why do I want to write about something that would wake me up in the middle of the night because of its disturbing qualities?
Where does my imagination come from? I have had some of the worst experiences a person can have, (as have most other people, I’m learning), and I think the memories contribute to a certain kind of fantasy life that someone who has not been exposed to those experiences may not be able to understand. In the retelling, it is often second nature to embellish and extend the truth. That is why we have to be so careful about the things we say and do in front of small children. The boogeyman may be there, whispering lies.

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