Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Creative Inspiration


A recent Wall Street Journal article – “The Biking Detective” by Alexandra Alter, described how crime writer George Pelecanos gets his inspiration and details: biking around Washington, DC on his road bike, “lingering in back alleys, cemeteries and abandoned parking lots.” “That’s really the time when I’m writing the book,” said Mr. Pelecanos. “In terms of plot, I don’t outline, I kind of search for it when I’m out here.” Mr. Pelecanos has published 17 books and worked as a writer on HBO shows “The Wire” and “Treme.”

He is working on a new novel called “The Cut.” The main character is Spero Lucas, a 29-year-old Marine who returns from Iraq to find work as an investigator for a Washington lawyer and his shady clients. When a drug dealer wants him to recover a missing package of marijuana, Lucas demands a 40% cut, and enters into a dangerous stand-off with a criminal ex-cop named Ricardo Holley.

The article describes how the plot came together during one of Pelecanos’ daily rides. “One day, he found a squat, dark red brick bungalow near Georgia Avenue that looked like it could house a low-profile criminal like Holley. He rode around back and saw that it was protected only by a cheap, low fence. ‘You could break into it during the day and no one would know,’ he says. The details about the house–the hopable fence and the secluded back alley sparked a break-in scene in the novel that jolts the plot forward.

Reading about George Pelecanos’ creative inspiration reminded me of one of my own.  I was hiking along the banks of the Delaware River, when I spotted a bone sticking out of the riverbank.  I was sure it was either a relic of the historic skirmishes with the Indians, or the remains of some murder victim.  I dug it out and remembering all the crime sitcoms, put it carefully in a plastic bag.  I brought it to the local police station to hear it…was…a…sheep bone.  Oh, well.  But I remember the thrill of discovery, and all the plot lines that began to emerge.

Is your writing or creative inspiration prompted by unexpected discoveries?

Click here to read more about George Pelecanos and “The Cut.”

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