EVERY MURDER MYSTERY AUTHOR GETS THE QUESTION ALL THE TIME: Where do your ideas come from? It’s not our favorite question (that comes later) but to answer it, we often turn to the headlines.

Today for example, there’s this sad story out of New York City, which includes a hit and run with three fatalities, a young married couple and their unborn baby. The baby was delivered alive although the mother had already died. Tragically, the baby passed away soon after.

So far, although one’s heart goes out to the family’s loved ones, we don’t have anything to inspire a murder mystery story. But then it gets mysterious.

Turns out the man who fled the scene claims he was being chased by a gunman. In most cases that would be “a likely story” except this man is in fact exactly the kind of guy who might be chased by a gunman. He once did time for murdering a criminal whose alias later inspired a famous rapper’s stage name (50 cent). Add the fact that the owner of the car he was driving is under investigation for insurance fraud, and the scenario takes on fictional proportions.

Of course, if an author wrote it just that way, that would be a true crime book, not a murder mystery novel. So let’s try asking every murder mystery author’s favorite question: what if?

What if that baby had survived? What if the man who fled the scene was never caught? And what if the baby grew up and came back to New York City to find the man who killed his parents?

See how easy that is? There’s no mystery to coming up with murder mystery ideas. It’s just a matter of, “What if?”

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