For days, heartbreaking images from Japan have lit up our television screens. As writers, we may watch these news clips differently.
With the flipped train, we wonder where each passenger was headed. With each splintered home, we're curious about who lived there. Behind each survivor's weary face, there's an untold story.
When disturbing events unfold, we may think "what if," and imagine characters in a similar situation. How did they get there? What is their home life like? What's at stake for this person?
I've imagined fictional scenes when I watched school shootings, car chases, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. I've read a few novels where scenes took place around the terror attacks of 9/11.
Over three years ago, when all of California seemed like it burned out of control, my house almost caught fire. Did I write about that traumatic event? It took some time, but yes, I did.
Japan's wounds are gaping and raw. I have no doubt that at some point in the future we'll see stories framed around this tragedy. Writers will likely capture the shock, fear, sorrow, survival, and hope. In the meantime, I'll focus on real life and continue praying for the people of Japan.
How about you? Have you fictionalized a traumatic event, either your own or one from the news?