Writing a Mystery or Suspense Novel – Suppose, What if and Why?

“Don’t forget things that were painful or embarrassing or silly. Turn them into a story that tells the truth.” Paula Danzinger

One of a writer’s most precious resources is the world that lives beyond the creaking gate, borne in a fog of ideas that seeks the low places. Here, sometimes in the din of dank recesses, other times in bright, golden light, march a legion of the hopelessly lost and unceasingly forlorn. They bang their dented tin cups so that we might notice them. Their tatters of spirit overpower and wrest control of the rules of engagement we have posted in our heads and tattooed indelibly across our common sense. Yet, we ensnare and assail them without conscience. The meat of their souls will sustain us until we have had our fill.

Pen and paper, recorders and our brains are the simple tools we have packed for this hunt. When we return from the fray victorious, our prey in hand, chafed but unharmed, the camp is pitched with sturdy folders, and staked in neat rows by organizational software. Lieutenant Scrivener cages our captures, tarping the rough edges with a well-stitched backstory, calming, nurturing, grooming them. No meal tonight, only a fortune cookie that teases, promising ultimate release into the light of day. Cynics among the group argue that this is largely hot air and not to be trusted.

Suppose they escape while we go about our daily affairs? It simply will not happen. Resolutely prepared for their struggles, we observe them unnoticed, peripherally, boldly, one eye to life’s knothole. They huddle as if to gain strength by association and we hear their whispers, indistinct and largely unintelligible. We bait them to be more forthcoming and revealing by releasing a few of them at a time. Wary of yet another trap, at first, they peek out with pinpoint pupils. Once they see the fire-breathing dragon is only papier-mache and has human feet with yellowed toenails, they rush out pell-mell, leaving behind a boneyard of dangling participles, split infinitives and tired cliches. Their fires of determination are stoked with dreams of literary stardom, their tickets punched on express trains to glory.

It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: “If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.” Stephen King, author of 11/22/63: A Novel

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Happy Writing!

R. R. Harris

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

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