Story Time

Unearthing the bones of a mystery novel

A young woman, with an infant child at home, disappears without a trace. The husband is a prime suspect.

This frightening premise has inspired storytellers for millennia. And for good reason. The audience relates to the situation. It’s heart wrenching for the family, not knowing whether to hope for a return or to grieve a loss. Unlike a murder, there is no sense of closure.

To the writer, the unknown details of a missing person case present a blank canvas upon which to map the story. In the fictional accounts inspired by the real-life stories of missing mothers, a new picture is created, one that can complement the reality. Because we don’t know the outcome of the true story, a fictional resolution can offer a possible explanation to the disappearance.

From the time I first heard about Marcia’s disappearance, I knew it had the potential to be a great story. An intriguing foundation for a novel. With that in mind, about two years ago, I eagerly set out to write my first novel.

The facts of the case as I knew them made up a solid foundation. I wrote in a flurry those first few chapters. I received positive feedback and constructive suggestions from writer workshops. My early enthusiasm was fun, but I knew the day was coming when I would need to create my own path. Marcia’s story was incomplete, meaning that I had a clean slate to showcase my creativity. What an opportunity! Marcia was not here to tell us how things turned out. I pictured myself, standing with Marcia, at an intersection with hundreds of possible routes. She couldn’t tell me which way to go. Doubt crept in. What if I told her story wrong? I felt a responsibility to get the story right. For Marcia. For my mother-in-law. For my wife. For myself.

I decided I needed to know more about Marcia’s story. Was there a clue in there somewhere that would point me in the right direction? I launched and began to document my investigation. I’ve learned some surprising new details that shed light on Marcia and her personality and background. But I haven’t found that breakthrough “aha” moment that would give the story clarity and resolution. Instead of trying to find another way through these roadblocks, I turned back to the novel.

The novel is progressing well and I have made the story my own. I’ve changed the names and some of the relationships but the location remains the same because I think that adds some important context to my story. I’m continuing to write and am cautiously optimistic that I can publish within the next year.

At the same time, however, I do not wish to neglect this blog and podcast, and the investigation into the real Marcia’s disappearance. So I endeavor to keep this blog updated and keep looking for the clues that will tell us what happened to Marcia.

Thanks for reading.

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