An incident at sea

People often ask me where the stories I write come from, mostly I can’t really say except that it’s from things I’ve observed, people’s expressions, behaviour and actions, strange things in unexpected places, an overheard scrap of conversation. |It can be a character I see in a TV drama who becomes the basis for someone else in one of my stories – often changing every detail about them, gender, age, status. Or I can see a face in real life or a photo of someone in the media – maybe even an anonymous face in a crowd and it’s something about the expression or lack of it, I can hear a news story, and it triggers thoughts of a plot inspired by a small incident or aspect. In fact it can be almost any stimulus to my busy imagination.

I saw a sad headline, but it was the wording which caught my attention. One dead and one injured in fishing incident at sea. Not an accident, not a disaster, but ‘an incident’.  A ‘fishing’ incident suggests a fishing boat or trawler, but maybe it was people in a smaller boat, a launch or dinghy who had gone out for a day’s sport. What happened? Was it an accident – if so why did it not say so, One dead and one injured in fishing accident at sea’? Accident would cover a fall on the boat/trawler/ship, something happening involving equipment or the engine, a tumble overboard and pulling someone with them – and if it was the result of someone going into the sea, why wasn’t it ‘One drowned and one injured in incident at sea’?  We no longer have pirates round our coasts, but we do have smugglers, of people and things, but if that was the case it would probably be One dead and one injured in fishing incident involving smugglers/traffickers at sea’, or People trafficker/illegal immigrant dead and one injured in fishing accident at sea’, or Smuggler dead and another injured in fishing accident at sea.’.

That’s how my mind works, what happened, why, why this and not that, who was it/were they, how did it happen, what’s the backstory, what happened next? Characters begin to appear as the imaginary boat is identified in my imagination. It’s a small launch with four friends who have gone out for a day’s sea fishing; there’s been a dispute rumbling on between two of them – maybe dating back to when they were at school – no, when they were at Uni together. Something triggers a row, may be a joke in bad taste, maybe a sneering remark, maybe something happened recently which has set the row off again – blows are exchanged, the boat rocks, maybe one of the others intervenes, maybe he -or she is the one who ends up dead…. I don’t think I have the knowledge to write about an incident on a fishing trawler large or small, but there could be a disagreement over wages, over what’s legal and illegal in terms of what fish can be caught and quotas, it could be a person having a relationship with another’s wife/husband/partner…

The word incident not accident caught my eye and I’ve jotted down the quote which may or may not be used one day in my writing. It did remind me of an excellent and exciting book I read about fishing boats and deaths at sea, ‘A North Sea Tale’, by Chris Speck. I’ve mentioned it before but if you haven’t read it, I really encourage you to do so – you’ll learn a lot about trawler fishing in the 1970’s as well as having a fine mystery to puzzle over.

This is a link to the report:


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