Obituaries: Mining the unexpected

murder mystery, crime fiction, suspense thriller, fiction, writer, author

Obits are chock full of characters & storylines


Reading the obituaries in my daily newspaper is not a regular pastime. But as it happened one day, looking for information for personal reasons, I came across the obituary for a WWII soldier.

Out curiosity and respect for his service I began to read the many interesting things about him and his life. It got me thinking.

So I laid the paper flat on the table and began to scan the numerous entries. In among the sadness of these columns were wonderful stories, life-time achievements and delightful tales.

Some had ended battles with cancer and other diseases and others just ran out of time. Some lived long lives, some lives were all too short.

Here before me on these pages were reports and accounts. There were families, friendships, romances and colleagues.  All of which blended into the wonderful collage of someone’s life and their impact on others.

For the writer in me there were characters to think about. Would that WWII soldier fit into a story? What about the executive who was first in her law class? Did that contractor work on house where years later a famous murder took place?

We never know where inspiration will hit us. The idea is to keep your mind open and to not discard an idea without examining the possibilities. At the very least the obits can provide you with some interesting names for your characters.

~ June Lorraine


  One thought on “Obituaries: Mining the unexpected

  1. May 25, 2015 at 12:00 AM

    “In among the sadness of these columns were wonderful stories, life-time achievements and delightful tales.”

    Insightful, June. Obituaries are so much more than a death notice.

    • May 25, 2015 at 9:51 PM

      Thanks Vicki, kind of you to mention. The richness within these pages is oft overlooked.

  2. Vicki
    May 25, 2015 at 12:02 AM

    “In among the sadness of these columns were wonderful stories, life-time achievements and delightful tales.”

    Insightful post, June. Obituaries are so much more than a death notice.

  3. May 25, 2015 at 3:08 AM

    Quite odd, this post. I’m one for reading obits (one day I realised I’d just learnt all about the man who’d invented the mini-roundabout) I used to buy The Times on a Saturday only, as I can’t afford a broadsheet everyday, and I’d always be fascinated by the obituaries – just the sheer variety of lives lived. But just last week a Scottish crime writer, ex-cop and journalist RJ Sellers, mentioned the obituary column as possible food for thought – with every respect to the deceased of course. So interesting you come up with the same idea. Especially now when we are losing so many WWII heroes – all with stories. Every day, I see someone I’d love to have met and had a dram with! Sadly, no longer possible. Great idea for writers. Let’s memorialise them in our work!

    • May 25, 2015 at 9:57 PM

      Two minds who think alike then 🙂
      A lovely thought to memorialize them, thanks for that.

      • May 25, 2015 at 10:55 PM

        It’s often thought of as a job for those going nowhere, or finished – this rather alters my thinking on that. I loved the old obit codes they used to have – I’m half-asleep, but can’t get beyond “confirmed bachelor” – I’m sure you can think of more?!

      • May 26, 2015 at 7:09 PM

        Love that one and then there’s: “upright man” 🙂

      • May 26, 2015 at 11:26 PM

        I’m thinking that’s in the same territory?? It’s a new one on me, actually!

  4. May 25, 2015 at 3:25 PM

    I’ve also heard it’s a great way to learn how to use backstory without dumping a whole lot of unimportant stuff into your novel. Obituary writers have it down.

  5. May 27, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    As always, June, a wonderful post. I’ve gotten some great storylines out of turn-of-the-century London papers too. You can find them on line. To paraphrase Doyle through his Holmes character: Despite what the fiction writer can devise, it can never compare to the cruelties found in the headlines of the daily papers.

    • May 27, 2015 at 9:31 AM

      Yes, very absorbing and transport you to places and times so easily. Good mention re: Doyle. Thanks for dropping by I appreciate your support.

  6. June 15, 2015 at 5:02 PM

    What a fascinating first post of yours to read. I like how your mind works 🙂

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