From Love Story to Crime Thriller – A Matter of Perspective

crime fiction stalkers

As an author of crime thriller books, I see my relationship with my audience as critical. So occasionally, I like to share some of my personal anecdotes—from what I hear, readers actually enjoy reading this sort of thing. On this last Valentine’s Day, I felt uncharacteristically sentimental, so I wrote a short tribute in my blog to the night that I met my wife at a “Singles” function in the late seventies.

I happened to know my future wife’s brother, also a “Single” and in attendance, and relayed how I had “pumped him” for information about his cute sister with the irresistible chestnut tendrils. Next, how shall I say this, I exploited the backstory supplied by her brother, shamelessly writing how “I filled her in on her life story.” Fortunately for me, she was charmed…and the rest is history.

I recently received a message from one of my readers who gleaned some inspiration by what I had presumed was merely a touching tale of love blooming – published in honor of St. Valentine’s Day. She also sent along the short writing sample for which my quote, “I filled her in on her life story,” apparently served as muse. I was more than a little surprised by her interpretation of my first, rather providential, encounter with my wife.

Here it is, in part:

She had decided to vary up her routine. Monday morning, Kyle woke up at 6:00, a bit earlier than usual—she hadn’t been able to sleep lately, for some reason. Instead of lacing up her worn New Balance running shoes, forcing her unruly auburn hair into something resembling a ponytail, and taking her customary run across the bridge and back, she headed to the garage. Mornings were usually cool in New Mexico. Today was no different. It was her favorite time of the day for a run. But today she wanted to break away from the unshakable feeling that someone watched her day and night. Did they watch him too? As he walked out to his mailbox with his Golden Retriever, or swam laps at the club, so they could take him down?

Still in her white cotton nightgown, her eyes furtively scanning every corner of the garage, she fumbled around under the driver’s side floor mat of his old Buick for the key. She hadn’t taken the convertible out for a drive since he left it there almost two years earlier. While she did not intend to take the car out for a spin with the top down (even though it was still dark out, something about convertibles always made her feel exposed), Kyle wanted to sit where he had sat. Touch the leather bound steering wheel that he touched. Feel safe…or, just feel.

Seriously? Did my Valentine’s Day tribute sound like a stalker’s manifesto? A rant on the fringes of sanity a la Swimfan or Fear? This got me thinking about the significance of perspective, about point-of-view, about the vantage point from which a story is told. In any genre, the implications of this choice are far-reaching; but, perhaps, none more so than in crime fiction.

Consider the following scenario (a popular writing exercise). Five people witness a crime and are questioned by the police. On certain points their stories agree: a crime committed; a body found; the crime occurred at midnight. But in other details, their stories differ and, oftentimes, dramatically. The man, or woman, who fled the scene was either tall or of average height; hair, either dark, light, or obscured by a skullcap. The version of reality depends on who is telling the story and through whose eyes the story is told. Has the stalker become the stalk-ee…or, the other way around? Well, you’ll just have to read on. Keep your eyes open, oh, and it just might help to grow some eyes in the back of your head.

And to all my readers, never forget that you’re my #1 Crush. Love, Joel

Image source: Stalker courtesy of sodahead [dot] com

6 Responses to “From Love Story to Crime Thriller – A Matter of Perspective”

  1. Charlotte Rains Dixon

    This is such a great example! I always tell my students that if five of them witnessed a crime, they’d have completely different interpretations of it and would write the resulting story differently. Here’s proof!

  2. Gibson Goff

    I think you actually killed (no pun intended) two birds with one stone. Birdie One is the interpretation, and then the story. But Birdie Two, is listening, leading to the interpretation.

    When I first read the excerpt, I too thought you were a stalker, or the story is about a stalker. I based it on the words, “so they could take him down.” Then I realized my listening skills were probably faulty, and need to read the thing, again.

    Either way, I did find the stone you used to kill these two birdies to be sharp, well formed, and finely crafted. Enjoyed the read!

    • Joel Goldman

      Well put, Gibson. Fortunately, there’s no limit on the number of birds one can bag with a single stone. The trick is to duck when the stones are headed your way!

  3. Andrew Kardon

    Great post, Joel. It’s akin to the story of the blind men and an elephant, each touching a different part of the beast and describing what they see. While that tale is just showing how the parts of a story can be completely different but still work together to make up the same whole, it still shows that perception is critical in determining the underlying “truth.”

    What does your wife think of all this? Looking back at it, would she label you a stalker too?

    • Joel Goldman

      Thanks, Andrew. Glad you enjoyed it. I like your analogy. My wife thinks my mind is a scary and weird place 🙂