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Guest Blogger Heather Weidner: How Much of Your Fiction is True?

FQ4A9054eHow Much of Your Fiction is True? by Heather Weidner

Recently, I was asked if any of my mysteries are based on real events or contained real people. I do mix in some real life in my short stories and novels. All of my city settings are actual places. I tend to set my works in Virginia locales. If a crime occurs, I make up that location’s name. I wouldn’t put a horrific event at a real restaurant or store. But if you’ve been to the cities, you’ll recognize landmarks and street names.

Sometimes, I get ideas for crimes and capers from real cases, but I usually take liberties with the details. In my short story, “Washed up,” (Virginia is for Mysteries 2014) a beat up suitcase washes up on Chick’s Beach, and it’s filled with some mysterious contents. Back in the ‘80s, there was a real case where suitcases filled with body parts did wash up on beaches along the East Coast. In my story, I thought it would be interesting for beachgoers to find something old and sinister in an unexpected place.

For some of my characters, I blend characteristics of several real people to make a fictional person. And phrases that family and friends say frequently appear in my stories. I have two co-workers who keep asking me to make them villains. I haven’t done that yet, but I do hint from time to time that unruly team members will end up in a dumpster in a future story.

I carry a notebook with me wherever I go and always jot down names and interestingsecret lives private eyes cover tidbits that might one day make their way to a story. I use friends and family member’s names for minor characters. In Secret Lives and Private Eyes (June 2016), my sleuth, Delanie Fitzgerald, gives herself all kinds of aliases during her investigations. These are usually names of friends and family. And every once in a while, you’ll find police, EMTs, or FBI agents named after my favorite authors, rock stars, or actors. Delanie Fitzgerald is named for F. Scott Fitzgerald, and her company, Falcon Investigations, is in honor of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.

I did have an odd author moment when a woman with the same name as one of my main characters followed me on Twitter. It was a fun surprise.

Even though mysteries are fiction, a great deal of research goes into the project to get the details right and to make it plausible. And surprisingly, there can be quite a lot of truth in fiction.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in Virginia is for Mysteries and Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II. Currently, she is President of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, and a member of Guppies and Lethal Ladies Write. Secret Lives and Private Eyes is her debut novel.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.
Follow Heather at www.heatherweidner.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
Secret Lives and Private Eyes Synopsis
Business has been slow for Private Investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald, but her luck seems to change when a tell-all author hires her to find rock star, Johnny Velvet. Could the singer whose career purportedly ended in a fiery crash almost thirty years ago, still be alive?
And as though sifting through dead ends in a cold case isn’t bad enough, Chaz Wellington Smith, III, a loud-mouthed, strip club owner, also hires Delanie to uncover information about the mayor’s secret life. When the mayor is murdered, Chaz, is the key suspect. Now Delanie must clear his name and figure out why landscaper Tripp Payne, keeps popping up in her other investigation. Can the private investigator find the connection between the two cases before another murder – possibly her own – takes place?
Secret Lives and Private Eyes (June 2016) is a fast-paced mystery that will appeal to readers who like a strong, female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations.

  1. May 9, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    Anne, you make some good points about small communities running out of villagers if we killed everyone off (Cabot Cove syndrome). I, too, used real places in my first book but as I indicated above, I never put anything negative in a real life place. The funniest story I tell on my first book is that like you, I was careful to be accurate to the city layout/landmarks for the time I set the story. The only bad review I received was from someone who complained that the main road that the characters drive down doesn’t run the way I said it did — and he was right as of about six months after the book is set. I was right for the months the book takes place, but shortly thereafter, they rerouted the road and put the new dental school right in the middle of where it had run straight. I debated arguing with the reviewer, but happily someone who had been on campus at the same time responded to his comment and gave the book an excellent review. I love fans!!!!!

  2. May 9, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    One of my stories starts out in actual places; but the murder takes place in an undisclosed area of my city.

    • May 9, 2016 at 10:01 pm

      Maggie, thanks for stopping by. I agree – I used a real place in my first book, Maze in Blue — hard to get away from the University of Michigan, but anything negative was set in an imaginary office or a knock off restaurant.

  3. May 9, 2016 at 6:50 am

    In my mystery series, the village where a lot of the action takes place is fictitious but the layout and locations are loosely based on the village where I actually live. The fictional village is larger because the one I live in is tiny. If I started killing off people here a la Jessica Fletcher, there’d be no village left in a year or so!

    I use actual city settings and businesses a lot for Zanesville, OH and the surrounding area. I don’t let anyone die though in a location that’s real. That would be wrong. I’ve had comments from readers familiar with the area who like how they can see some of the places I’ve mentioned in their minds but, the flip side of that is I have to work hard to make sure I’m accurate with the facts.

    I too borrow names and character traits from people to use. I borrow ‘words’ and events too. Some stuff you just can’t make up…real life can be so much better.

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