Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Tuesday's Inspiration - Mysteries and plot.
Am I inspired, yes. I've been randomly reading essays by writers and this one by Stanley Ellin really hit home. The opening line "To the author, the plot is the most important element of the mystery novel. Th the reader, it is one of the least important." This made me stop and think since my current project is a "cozy" mystery. I devote an entire draft to plot and I continue to tinker with it throughout the writing process. The plot has to make sense to me but sometimes it doesn't. I also need to have a good plot for my other forms of writing but does the reader need to love the plot. Sometimes events occur in the writing of a story, mystery or not that later bring the writer to an aha moment. This may not be the same moment to the reader. I've had this happen in stories in genres other than mysteries. What these moments do is clarify some plot point for myself.
What really happens is that the characters discover something. What a reader focuses on is the characters in the story and the setting. The plot is the understructurs of a story. For me it becomes the canvas on which I paint words. The characters interact with the plot and bring the story to life. But without a solid underground the characters won't take life. Since the mystery I'm writing is part of the series, my character has grown and changed but not her basic nature. In critique I'm reading to a mixed group. Some have followed the series and know the character almost as well as I do. Others have never read any of the books and this brings a mixed critique. Katherine is a rather no-nonsense person. She's also very in to her friends and family but she has little romance in her nature. This always boggles new readers if they haven't followed the series. Will she turn mushy. Never. Yes, she's getting married but she looks on this as another step in life. After all she and Lars have been friends for more than thirty years. They have been sort of romantically involved for the past fifteen years and are getting married. This is a union of good friends, not a romance.
Back to what inspired me. The characters and the settings are what brings the plot to life. Playing fair with the reader is another thing I need to be aware of. In the current book there is a small scene that wrote itself and in it there is a clue I didn't realize would be important as the book neared the end.
Also this essay talked about which person. For this series I chose for the first book first person. I always wondered why since only what the viewpoint character learns is what the reader learns. For these stories I've finally realized this is the right thing for the reader explores the murder in the same way as the heroine. Had I chosen multiple viewpoints for the story, they would be different and probably never would have been completed.
This essay inspired me and gave me a few clues as to what I need to explore in writing this story and also the next one which has little to do with mystery. It's a fantasy romance.