Sunday, May 9, 2010

Have you been the victim of a crime?

by: Joelle Charbonneau

No, I’m not talking about feeling mugged after filing your taxes or knowing you were ripped off after paying full price to see the newest, and lamest, blockbuster movie. During jury duty (yeah, I’m back to talking about jury duty again), the judge questioned all of us potential jurors. One of the questions was “Have you or someone you know been the victim of a crime?”

My answer was yes. My cousin was shot and killed years ago by an angry boyfriend who went to the wrong apartment. Also, a friend of mine was shot in the head while walking home at night. Thankfully, he survived.

For some reason I was shocked to hear everyone answer yes. Wow…was crime that rampant? More interesting still was the crimes that people listed. Almost half the people said their car window had been broken. Well, when we lived in the city our car window was broken a number of times. It never occurred to me to claim that under the heading of “being a victim of a crime”. One woman said she forgot her purse on a bench, realized it hours later and went back to get it only to find it had been stolen. Another guy said his cousin’s house was robbed about twenty years before.

Maybe sitting in a jury box for an impending murder trial made me automatically think about big crimes – capital C Crimes. Murder, kidnapping, assault, armed robbery. I never really thought about the small things like a broken window or a misplaced and subsequently stolen purse.

But aren’t those what some of the best crime stories are about? Yeah, we all love a great murder mystery – at least I do – but the story that revolves around a misplaced wallet can be just as compelling. The lost/stolen purse really got me thinking. What if someone who took that purse got something he or she wasn’t expecting? What if that small act of theft turned into something much bigger? What if that person ended up running for his or her life simply because they didn’t turn the purse into lost and found? What if?

As writers, it's our job to ask “What if?” about everything. You never know which “What if” might inspire the next great story. I have to admit that the book I just started was inspired by me asking “What if” about that jury case… What kind of events or “What if” moments have inspired you?

And for all you moms out there - Happy Mother's Day!


Julie said...

Almost anything will work, because I'm always wondering what peoples' stories are.

We live in the country, and there's an empty single wide trailer next door. It belongs to the folks across the road. One day while I was doing heavy yard work a young couple walked up the road. He was carrying a duffel bag, and she had a backpack. He looked more country, but she looked like she belonged in the hipster district in the city. They crossed the road and went into the single wide. A few hours later they came out and walked away.

I've never seen them since.

I could assume they were there for the obvious, but that wasn't where my mind went.

I've stored it for use later, I'd like to see where it goes.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Joelle, wonderful post. What ifs make the writer's worlds go round. Imagination is a wonderful gift, no, and I imagine as you write this your muse was having a hard time not jumping up from the blog to go sit at the keyboard.

I actually when I was in college left my purse in downtown Denver and someone returned it to me. I gave him $10 for his trouble... Now, a what if just happened to bubble up after your post....

Happy Mother's Day to you, too! I can't wait for Skating around the Law to hit the shelves also.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Hi Joelle,
I'm so sorry about your cousin and friend and the violence they encountered. What a miracle that your friend has survived.

I don't think anyone is exempt to crime. Whether it's a smashed mailbox, identity theft, or murder, crime is rampant. You just may not hear about it. After 21 years in the police department, I've seen and heard about lots of crimes.

You've made me think of a few at are worthy of writing some posts about ~ I may just do that! There are so many stories wrapped up in those crimes, and it reveals a lot about human nature.

Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

Happy Mother's Day!

Mike Dennis said...

Good post, Joelle. It got me thinking about new story lines.

Steve Weddle said...

Yes, just what was in the purse.

Nice post and plenty to think about. Imagine a little crime setting off a string of hugeness. Moving a jenga piece. Pulling a sweater thread.

Dana King said...

Great post. I'd much rather rad about--and write about--something that seems simple, a workaday occurrence on the surface, than the potentially apocalyptic stories that are in vogue now. It's much easier and more effective to say something worthwhile when you can focus on a single person, or small group of people, than on some monolithic cast of millions. What's weird is that the apocalyptic thriller writers understand this, as they always have a character of small set of characters become prominent to drive the story home. If only they'd focus ion making them real, instead of writing cardboard cutouts and concentrating their energy on implausible plots and action.