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At one time in our lives most of us have experienced it.
That stab of panic when the loved one who was standing next to us has disappeared.
You turn away only for a moment and your son, or daughter, perhaps your spouse, is gone.
You look in every direction. A million nightmare scenarios burn through your mind as your stomach tightens with disbelief. You start searching the area scolding yourself, cursing the situation until eventually, mercifully, they emerge and relief washes over you.
Unfortunately there are tragic cases. Thankfully, they’re rare but they underscore our fear of what “could happen,” making any short-lived scares all the more chilling.
We accept that those jolting, heart-stopping incidents take place every day in malls, supermarkets, at fairs, stadiums, the suburbs, anywhere.
It happened to me one recent summer when my family and I were visiting the waterfront in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
We were sightseeing along the boardwalk, taking in the bustling shops and souvenir stalls. I'd stopped to look at some seascapes for what I swear was a few seconds, but when I turned; my wife, our son and daughter, were gone.
I looked in the nearest outlet but they weren’t there. I checked the next one, and the next but I couldn’t find them. As the minutes passed, I searched the crowds and looked in every direction but it was all in vain.
As the minutes swept by my frustration began to border on worry when my wife appeared next to me. She and the kids had been browsing in a stall and I’d walked right by them.
We laughed off the matter. "It could be a story for you," my wife said. She was right and it got me thinking: What if I didn't find them?
If you write thrillers, that "what if," is the seed of a story.
A confession: During the brief, intense time I’d searched for my family, I kept thinking, in a dark corner of my mind — hey, I can use this — because that's what writers do.
And if you write thrillers, any real life experience that increases your pulse rate is potential material. Within minutes I was outlining a story in my mind.
What if something similar happened to an ordinary family? Let’s say they were from a small town in Montana and it happened while they were on a vacation in New York City. What if it happened during a troubled point in their lives; at a time when they were coming apart at the seams because of an earlier family tragedy and thought a vacation would help them cope?
Then what if you raise the stakes? Let’s say police are initially doubtful of the father’s account of how his family vanished in broad daylight, owing to the emotional stress in the family.
Given they’re in Manhattan, what if this was all unfolding during a General Assembly of the United Nations, creating a whirlwind of — well let’s just say I thought the idea of an ordinary heartbroken family caught up in extraordinary circumstances might make for a compelling story.
- Rick Mofina
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