A couple of years ago, a friend told me a story. Well, what I actually remembered, what stayed with me was the bare bones of an incident that he said he'd heard about that happened at his commuter rail station.
There might've been a newspaper article about it at the time. I seem to remember there was, that the incident was vaguely familiar when my friend told me about it. I tried looking for it recently, but I couldn't find it. I found plenty of other incidents near the two possible commuter rail stations but none that matched what's in "Snowbanks," none that interested me as much.
What my friend told me was an incident, something compelling but it was not a full story.
What I tried to do in "Snowbanks" was try to wrap a story around that incident. It was kind of like reverse engineering. I knew the ending but had to find a way to start from a beginning that would connect to the ending.
In no way was I trying to tell the story of the actual person -- I have no memory if I ever knew the man's name, age, or job. If there was a newspaper article, it would not have mentioned anything about a family other than the name of a wife/partner/girlfriend or children, if any. Newspaper articles of this sort provide some details but don't flesh out the person's life. As I saw today in a New York Times book review of "The Sinner and the Saint: Dostoevsky and the Gentleman Murderer Who Inspired a Masterpiece,": "knowing the facts is not the same as knowing the person."
This is not a complaint about journalism. Newspaper articles have to convey facts but those facts, especially in articles about an accident, generally don't provide a sense of "knowing the person," especially in situations that can seem somewhat random.
So what I tried to do with "Snowbanks" was to develop a facts that would coalesce into a character who finds himself in a commuter rail station, an ordinary location that you might not even look at twice as you're driving by.
So inspired by, not based on, true events, "Snowbanks" is an attempt to explain an otherwise random event, to find a way to make it make sense.
You can read the story in Bull Literary Magazine: http://mrbullbull.com/newbull/fiction/snowbanks/.