It’s been a week for strange stories. Robert McKee, screenwriting guru, said that people do bizarre or awful things more often and worse than you can imagine. They also have things happen to them that would challenge the most vivid imagination. Add in accidents, mistakes and catastrophes, and real life usually outdoes fiction. The crash of Continental Flt 3407 took the life of a 9/11 widow. She died in a fiery crash – her late husband died on the 98th floor of the south tower. Would you add such a twist to a fictional story? A woman was allegedly beheaded by her TV exec husband. A chimpanzee tore the face off the friend of its owner. Bizarre twists, tragic stories. McKee was hardly the first to note that life is stranger than fiction.
The chimp story did remind me of elements for the novel I’m working on now. Keeping exotic pets is very dangerous and we have developed a naive hubris about them. They are not just like us. There’s some exotic pet-keeping in my book and I need to address the danger. The book’s tone is darkly comic. If you’re writing something lighter, then you have to pull back in some way from the danger or explicit violence – either not showing it or showing it in an absurd way. However, that doesn’t mean that the danger is not present.