Like Being in the Newsroom…Again

News Control Room 4Writing the serial novel, Whispers, for Attraction Magazine with the weekly deadlines reminds me of the days when I worked in television and radio newsrooms.

What does a murder mystery set on the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore have in common with news broadcasts?

Plenty!  Yes, I was surprised, too.

When I first took on the commission to write this serial last March, not a word was written. There was no protagonist.  No murder.  No motive.  My co-author, Cheril Thomas and I had nothing. The project was announced on March 28th and the first episode appeared both in print and online on April 18th.  That’s how fast this whole project came together.

Whispers Episode 12 is a wonderful example of newsroom echoes. (Link below)

Any news story requires context and local color. The same is true with mystery writing. According to our original plan, our characters would visit some of the fun, local events on the Shore as the story unfolded. They sailed in the Cardboard Boat Race in Oxford… and flirted. One bid fast and furiously at the Crumpton antique auctions… as an unsavory character appeared. They watched as the reenactment of the Boston Tea Party in Chestertown… where an argument flared.

A news story is built on the facts, facts that must be checked. When a mystery is using real places and real events, the same rule applies. Since Episode 12 for a visit to another special event, I picked up the phone to be sure all was correct.Question mark

And that’s when the weird coincidences began.

I’m afraid I can’t identify the event or the person(s) involved, but I can tell you about the coincidences:

  • One of the characters came to the Shore from a town on the other side of the Bay Bridge…the same town where one of the key event organizers was born and raised.
  • That character has a certain occupation… the same as the key organizer.
  • A sensitive family connection exists for the character… and the same is true for the organizer.
  • The first name of these two individuals – one fictional, one real  – yes, you guessed it, even their first names are the same!

The organizer said, “People are going to think the character is based on me!”

I can assure you that no Whispers character is based on a real person, living or dead. But, I ask you, what are the chances that fiction should mirror reality like this?Question marks

In the newsroom, the writer checks the facts and edits the story to reflect them. In fiction, the writer knows when the situation is too awkward, and so, deletes the episode and begins again… even when there are only a couple of days before it’s due to post.

That’s when I appreciated my training in the newsroom so many years ago: Write it right and write it fast!

Hope you enjoy the latest episode of Whispers, especially now that you know the story behind the story. Check out Episode 12, in fact all the episodes so far at and click on the Whispers logo in the right corner.The Whispers Logo


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