Monday, February 24, 2014
Before writing a word, take some time tojot down key story points. As you're writing, the story will want totake on a life of its own. Having a handy reference of key points will help keep your story on track and you from pulling your hair out. A list of key points is also helpful when outlining the story plot. You may very well find that the story begins to unfold as you're writing down the key points. If this happens...let it! Write down any ideas or details that come to you, they'll come in handy later. Some key points to consider are; what is the mystery? This is the underlying theme to the entire story so be as in-depth as possible (has there been a
murder or a theft or a kidnapping? If so, how and where was it committed?).
Hunt for the culprit. Every good story has at least one antagonist, but what steps must the hero or heroine take to find him/her? How will the villain evade the hero? How is the mystery solved? In mystery writing there are a lot of twists and turns. Write down your initial thoughts for plot twists, red herrings to throw the readers off the trail of the true villain, and of course the final stages of how the good guy will prevail...or does he? You need to decide whether or not the hero or the villain wins in the end. Many hero’s die trying to
solve their case. Many are involved in physical altercations with other characters. You must decide how many altercations, the number of characters involved, and what weapons if any are used. It is not a good
idea to only engage your characters with fist fighting. Throw in some knives, chains, falling from windows, or my favorite, a poisoning, and other nasty assaults.
Every great story has well rounded characters. We read fiction because we want to be entertained and
develop a connection with the characters. Outlining items such as personality traits, physical features, and quirks can help bring your characters to life; a speech impediment, or limp, or a nervous twitch. For the Protagonist, decide the name, age, where does he/she live, does he/she have a family or pets, what is their driving goal for taking on this particular case? Is the hero a police officer, a person sworn to honesty, pride, and valor. Or is the good guy a private detective being paid to find a certain someone. Or your main character could be a parent or sibling searching for a missing loved one.
For the Antagonist, decide the name, age, where does he/she live, is there an underlying reason for being the antagonist? Perhaps this person is a career criminal. On the other hand, maybe he/she is a good person that suffered an unjust and turned to crime out of bitterness and despair. Then you have your support characters, who are the color of the story. They provide depth to the story whether good or bad. A support character could be as simple as a loud mouth hot dog vendor standing on a street corner or as in-depth as the villain's partner in crime. In writing a mystery story, support characters can take on a life of their own with
the reader, so make them interesting. Just because they are labeled support characters does not mean they are any less important than the main characters.
Next is the location of the story. When and where is the story set? These two key elements are what bring your story to life. Mystery story writing is a broad genre and could be set in any time period and in any place. When working with actual locations it is a good idea to do research on the location first. Readers want to feel as though they are there with the characters, so being able to accurately describe a location is vital. Time periods are no exception. If the story is set in 1940's New Orleans, the reader will want to see their
surroundings, not just be told the story is taking place in a speakeasy or church. Be descriptive!
A mystery story is not a story without a solid well thought out plot. Some things to consider when developing the story plot: What is the driving force of the mystery? To solve a murder, or rescue a kidnap victim? What does the villain do to thwart the hero? Does the villain get his goons on the hero? Is the hero being set up by the villain and now he is being hunted by police. What other obstacles get in the way of solving the mystery?
One of the most important elements of writing a mystery story is suspense. Giving away too much too soon will bore the reader. It is best if the suspense is sprinkled throughout the story; bring the mystery to light within thefirst few chapters, then as the story progresses add a clue here and there without revealing the outcome until the final chapter. Do not be afraid to add a "red herring" or false clue, within the stories context. Readers love nothing better than to think they have everything figured out only to find in the end they were mistaken the entire time.The final few chapters of the story should hold the climax of the conflict and resolution between the hero and villain, including how all of the clues scattered throughout the story cumulatively solves the mystery. A good conclusion gives the reader a sense of closure in finding out how the hero solved the mystery. Remember that not all mysteries have to be completely solved or have a "happy" ending. If you are writing a series of stories, the villain may get away at the end of story #1 with the hero using clues from story #1 to track down the villain in story #2. In mystery story writing, the possibilities are
only limited by your imagination.
Blurb for Murder Most Foul:
When two dismembered torsos wash up on the banks of the local river in the small industrial town of Pleasant Valley, residents are horrified.Between contradicting statements, police ineptitude, lust, lies,
manipulation, incest, the motorcycle gang The Devil’s Disciples, crooked cops, and a botched crime scene, everyone becomes a suspect.
The young beautiful Jackie Reeves, a registered nurse, believes the killer is a man from her past. She contacts the dangerously handsome FBI Agent Walker Harmon. An arrest is made, but Harmon and Jackie believe an innocent man is being railroaded by local cops. Determined to find the truth, before anymore killings, Agent Harmon and Jackie are forced to run a gauntlet of deep trouble and turmoil, which marks them for death.
Other books by JoAnne:
Wicked Intentions-a paranormal/mystery anthology
The Crime of the Century-a biography true crime book
Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between
Twisted Love-a biography true crime anthology
Loves, Myths, and Monsters, available later this month
Flagitious-a detective/crime novella anthology
I have been a long-time resident of southeastern Ohio, and worked in the blue-collar industry most of my life. Besides having several novels under my belt, I canvass paint.When not busy with hobbies or working outside the home, I spend time with relatives, my dogs Jasmine and Scooter, and volunteer my time within the community. I am a member of the Hocking Hill's Arts and Craftsmen Association, The Hocking County
Historical Society and Museum, and the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. I believe in family values and following your dreams.
My books along with my original canvas paintings, can be found at: http://www.booksandpaintingsbyjoanne.com
Buy links: “Murder Most Foul,” www.melange-books.com/authors/joannemyers/MMF.html
Here is the link to buy it directly from LULU:
Myers-Author of Murder Most Foul,- Wicked Intentions,- Loves', Myths', and Monsters',- The Crime of the Century,- Twisted Love, and Flagitious.
My website Blog: http://www.booksandpaintingsbyjoanne.com/page2
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Paper or Plastic?
By P.J. MacLayne
We all got used to hearing “paper or plastic” when grocery stores moved to plastic bags umpteen year ago. The majority of us gladly accepted plastic. They were lighter, easier to store, and could be used again. The thought that they were bad for the environment didn't even cross our minds for many years. Now it's hard to find a grocery store that provides paper bags.
The current debate is e-book vs paper. There are a lot of advantages to books in electronic format. They are more environmentally friendly, for one thing. A small e-book reader can hold 1400 or so books. How much space would that many books take up in your home or apartment? And how much paper would be used in their creation?
E-books also tend to be cheaper. It depends upon the publisher of course, but unless you're buying used books, you aren't likely to find a paperback for ninety-nine cents. All sorts of e-books are on sale for that price every day.
True, it's harder to share that great book you just finished with your best friend. On some platforms, it can be done, but it's not as easy as picking it up off the coffee table and handing it over.
Having grown up before the era of e-books, transitioning to the new format was difficult for me. There’s nothing like curling up in your favorite chair with a paper book in your hand and your favorite beverage nearby. The feel of the paper between your fingers as you turn the page. The experience isn’t the same holding a tablet and flicking a finger over the surface.
Which do you prefer?
Dot, the heroine in my book, Wolves’ Pawn, would fall among the supporters of paperbacks. Money is tight for her, and she needs to be able to pick up and leave at a moment’s notice. She can leave a physical book behind without an issue, but leaving behind an e-reader would be tough. Besides, she prefers to pay for everything in cash when she is on the road. Makes it harder to be traced.
Here’s an excerpt where she’s getting ready to run:
The campers were gone, but Dot hesitated at the top of the hillside. The birds were hushed, their silence unnatural. She reached out with her other senses but found nothing unusual. As noiselessly as possible in her human form, she moved across the top of the ridge, the breeze blowing softly across her face.
The faint scent of a campfire remained in the air, but not enough to worry her. No smoke rose from the campfire pit and that was the important thing. The grass was pushed down where the tents used to be, but would spring back in a few days. The garbage had apparently been packed out as she saw none around the meadow.
Still, she delayed going to the house. A large crow landed near her and cocked its head, staring at her. She wondered what message it carried. As the bird flapped its wings and flew off, she detected the sound of a motor coming down the road. She listened, puzzled—were the campers coming back? Why had they taken down their tents if they had planned to return?
Now the sound grew more distinct. It was not one motor, but several. Four men on motorcycles pulled into the clearing and parked a little way away from the house, talking loudly amongst themselves. Three forced their way into the house while one stood outside, scanning the meadow. Finally, the three came back outside. The conversation came to her in snatches;
“Others … here, but … recently.”
“No … tracks.”
The fourth man stood still, scanning the area. His gaze moved towards the trees beyond the clearing and Dot hugged the ground. She prayed the wind would not change directions. She dared not back away from her vantage point, fearing the noise of crackling leaves and breaking twigs would be enough for them to hear.
“Spread out … the woods.”
Her choices were limited. She needed to get back to her bike and leave. The only thing in the house was her sleeping bag and it could be replaced. Before she could move, she saw the fourth man go to the fire pit and grab the firewood the campers had left. He stacked it against the house, then grabbed a can from the saddlebag of his bike and poured some sort of liquid over the wood. Her other sight showed her the malicious grin on his face and her other smell caught a strong odor of kerosene. He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and lit one. Carelessly, he tossed it on top of the stack and watched as the stack lit, catching the dried wood of the old house on fire as well.
No, Dot would have no time to grab a valuable e-reader.
Wolves’ Pawn is available on only in e-book format on Amazon for the time being. There will be a paperback version available in the near future. Here’s the link to buy it.
P.J. MacLayne is a computer geek by day and a writer by night. She was born in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania where many of her stories are set. She currently lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.