I’ve written often in this blog about how the local newspaper can serve as a source for a story idea and have given some examples as well. Recently, my local paper mentioned an enterprising Maine writer, Horace Landry, who went beyond scribbling about what he read and took a crack at solving a real-life cold case. The paper also published a column about how Maine author, Paul Doiron, has stuck to using real-life to generate ideas for his writing and details the ways in which he has used them.
For example, many readers will be familiar with the story of the “North Pond Hermit.” This initially sounded like a great idea to me too but then I noticed how quickly local songwriters and pastry chefs jumped on the idea and began to wring it out. Furthermore, my husband, who has always had a deep love of the woods and strong desire to get away from the demands of modern society (I fear that includes laundry and dishes), rather did the story to death in my house. He did, of course, take note of the less glamorous features of the hermit’s life (such as the fact that he made his lifestyle possible by stealing from summer residents of the lake). Nevertheless, he still ruminates on the attraction of being a hermit to the point that I’d rather not write about it myself. Never fear, however, because Paul Doiron has molded the story into his own and you can read it on his author site.
The column about Doiron raises the delicate question of respecting the families and victims of persons whose lives become the subjects of fiction. This is an important consideration when culling stories from the press. Doiron speaks of using the press as a “jumping off point,” rather than a blueprint, and taking the story in different directions in order to blunt some of the trauma it could inflict. His version of the hermit, for example, is more thoughtful about items he takes. We owe it as writers to the people who give us our stories to be compassionate.