Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Happy Holidays to all, whatever days of celebration you observe and however you do it, religious or secular.  Expect a post of retrospection and introspection soon, but today is not that day.

Today, perhaps appropriately, I'd like to talk a little bit about endings, albeit in the fictional sense.

The past few weeks have been difficult emotionally and physically - a nasty cold which evolved into a sinus infection - so I can perhaps be forgiven for missing my usual warning signs of impending plot hole:  writer's block.  Instead, I ground to a halt with Unnatural Causes and tried to keep plugging away ... but the problem was, I couldn't walk the characters through what amounts to a fantastic autopsy (and believe me, I am having fun with the atmospherics of this scene) without knowing whodunnit.

Seems obvious, perhaps, but years ago, I saw a collection of mystery writers speak at Books and Company in Dayton, and more than one admitted that when they started writing, they didn't know which suspect had committed the murder.  This really stuck with me, and I decided when I broached the idea of a fantasy mystery novel that I was going to go into it with suspects, but no chosen killer.

I finally found this just wasn't working for me, and I needed to decide whodunnit to work through this autopsy (I'm not going to get tired of describing it like that).  What I looked at first was how I wanted to play with various assumptions that had already been made about the crime and the logic behind it.  That gave me some specific parameters to play with and one idea I knew I wanted to incorporate.

Then I started looking at the ultimate motive - was it political?  Personal?  Was she just in the wrong place at the wrong time?  In deciding which way I wanted to go with this, I had a distinct sense of how I wanted the characters (and hopefully, the reader) to react, and this dictated my ultimate choice.

This somewhat less organic than I usually work, but I'm satisfied with the conclusion I came to, and knowing where I'm going helps me shape the tone of the steps along the way.  I've never liked the concept of stories having a message, but I do like to play around with certain themes and tropes.  I suppose it's the difference between a short answer on a test - which would be the "message" - and a stream of consciousness poem.  It's not about the destination, it's about the journey.

No comments: