Guest Blogger Judy Penz Sheluk: The Power of “What If?”

Posted on: July 18th, 2015 by Carrick Publishing 6 Comments

Judy Penz Sheluk As a mystery writer, I’m often asked where I get my ideas. The answer to that varies by the story, although I’ll admit that there’s always some impetus that drives me to want to develop the fictional characters and inhabit their world for a while.

Let’s take, for example, my short story “Live Free or Die,” which appears in World Enough and Crime (Carrick Publishing, Nov. 2014). Although the story takes place in Toronto, as the title suggests, New Hampshire is most definitely represented. Without giving too much away, the plot involves a naïve twenty-one-year-old, Emerald (Emmy) and her love affair with Jack, a thirty-year-old man from New Hampshire who’s not all that he seems. Am I Emmy? Of course not. But, like Emmy, I did once work in the credit department of a Toronto-based insurance company, and I did have the misfortune of falling head over heels with a cad I met while working there. I merely took those circumstances and said, “What if?”

Judy Penz Sheluk - Hang Man's NooseBGWriting a novel takes even more of those “What if?” moments. In my debut mystery, The Hanged Man’s Noose (Barking Rain Press, July 2015), freelance writer Emily Garland is cash-strapped, newly single, and tired of reporting on the same old Toronto condo stats. When she’s offered a lucrative assignment in the village of Lount’s Landing, she decides to take a chance. All she has to do is relocate and uncover the real story behind a proposed redevelopment plan. And that’s where “What if?” comes in—along with a greedy developer and a feisty antiques shop owner who will do anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s Main Street.

Once again, I’m not Emily Garland. I have, however, been a fulltime freelance writer, specializing in art, antiques and the residential housing industry, since 2003. (I’m still waiting for a lucrative assignment to come my way!) I’ve also seen firsthand how irate people can get when unwanted development comes to their neighborhood. What if???

Getting ideas is as simple as paying attention to the world around me. The “what if’s” are what help me turn those ideas into fiction.

Judy Penz Sheluk is a member of Sisters in Crime International, Guppies, and Toronto, as well as Crime Writers of Canada. Find Judy at judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, is scheduled for publication July 21, 2015. Click on the Barking Rain Press logo to sign up to receive the first 4 chapters FREE and get a 35% off coupon to buy the book!

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6 Responses

  1. I’d like to thank Judy for her excellent article and welcome readers to take this opportunity to ask about her work.
    Donna

  2. Judy Penz Sheluk says:

    Thank you for hosting me, Donna. It was great fun to write about the “what ifs!”

  3. Hey Judy, can you tell us the strangest place you ever got an idea from?

  4. Great insight, Judy, into the “what if’s” that give birth to story ideas. It’s very true that writers take an experience, sometimes a truly ordinary one, and extend that into, now what would happen if…Well said!

  5. Hi Kristina, not sure about the strangest, but a couple of years ago we had this huge ice storm, and I saw all these big icicles, and I thought…hmmm…if you could use that as a murder weapon, the evidence would melt away. That formed the beginning of Plan D which is in The Whole She-Bang 2.

  6. Thanks Catherine, that means a lot to me, coming from you.