When A Story Takes You by the Throat!

Women Outside the WallsHow do writers find their stories??  This one came to me as I sat, one Sunday morning, in the waiting area of a state prison. I was there to interview a convicted murderer for a play I was writing(Cook County Justice) about his case. I found myself sitting with many other women;  wives, sisters, daughters, grandmothers.  We all had one thing in common; we were there to visit a man behind bars and all of our shoe laces were untied. (They search you.)

Was I nervous?  Scared?  YES!  I’d never been in a prison before and I was about to enter a visiting room filled with convicted murderers, rapists, thieves and drug dealers.  The one thing these men had in common was they were someone’s son, husband, and father.

I have often advised new writers to write about what they know.  I did not follow my own advice.  These women had such an impact on me…..figuratively taking me by the throat and insisting that I tell their story.  So I did….with research, research, and more research.

This story is told by three diverse women married to men who made a bad decision.  They couldn’t be more different from one another; a stripper, a hard working mother of four, and a socialite.  But sitting in the waiting area of a state prison is a great leveler.  They come together eventually by the need to get through the nightmare of their husbands being incarcerated for years.prison.bars.H5MR

In flashbacks the reader gets to know these women and their families and what brought them here on visiting day. The plot explodes when Chelsea, Alma and Charlie’s fifteen year-old daughter, disappears.  Charlie’s reaction will change each of their lives forever as the visiting room erupts in violence and heartbreak.

It was more than strange because as I was writing this story, I repeatedly met women who were going, or had gone through this experience.  When I was in the final proofing stages of my novel, I was working on the ‘acknowledgments’. One woman, in particular, had shared so much about her life outside the walls and I wished to thank her but still maintain her anonymity.So I asked her if I could print just her first name and last initial. Would that protect her, I asked, and keep her other clients from knowing about her personal life? Her reply to this question was this:

“It doesn’t matter if readers figure it out and know it’s me….your book has taken away all my shame…”

prison.bldg.YVZLThis novel is not a documentary.  I hope it’s a rousing good story with twists and turns.  It is fiction but it represents this, mostly unknown, slice of our population.  Everyone focuses on the victim of a crime, as well we should.  No one gives a single thought to these equally innocent wives and families of the perpetrator.
Have you always dreamed about writing a story or a poem or a play?  Check out these (below) journals/handbooks filled with ‘how to’ sections and lots of empty pages for your writing!

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