When using news stories as inspiration for your work, make sure this is a starting point. You need to take the idea and run with it to make it uniquely your own. This also avoids trouble with plagarism or accusations you’re using a tragedy for your own ends (and sadly it tends to be tragedies in the news). But the What If question is relevant as you see, for example, how someone in the news reacts and you have a character in mind and you ask yourself would they do the same or would their reaction be different?
Knowing Your Characters
Always make sure you know why your characters are the way they are, why their reactions are the way they are and this makes sense (if only to the character). Even fantasy worlds have rules… •
How does your fantasy world react to other worlds? Is there communication or do they keep an aloof distance? Do they study life on other planets? Are the ones they study aware of it? If the study “victims” don’t know, how does your world ensure they study without being detected?
Your Own Experiences -
Make sure when you use things from your own experience that everything you use you are happy to see in print (hopefully achieved!) and that nothing can come back to haunt you. Generally speaking it is best to, for example, use feelings and then get your characters to expand them and take them in a direction appropriate for them and the story rather than get your character to reflect everything that actually happened to you. Real life experiences should be treated like chilli powder - use very sparingly. Also as I’ve said before it is your characters that matter, not how you feel, what happened to you and so on. Characters should reflect, not copy exactly. The irony is that so often real life things tend to sound not real in fiction. There’s a reason for the saying truth is stranger than fiction… what you seek in your fiction is the sense of truth. You want folk to think yes, that could be. And don’t lay it on thick with a trowel. People will see through that.