Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Writing by the Numbers and Playing by the Rules
I forgot to ask Stan what he might like in way of refreshments, so I decided to go with what I would like this morning, and that is a cup of coffee and a Danish. Help yourself if you'd like and settle back to enjoy....
Every genre has its own rules. Try writing a fairy tale without beginning with “Once upon a Time” and see what your audience’s reaction will be. Try writing a love story in which you change the formula from “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl” to “boy meets girl and they hate each other and never meet again.” Your readers will boo you out of the library. Similarly, try writing a modern mystery in which you use some of the gimmicks found in the old Perry Mason TV show. Have someone no one ever suspected as the killer suddenly jump up in court and confess.
Readers today have certain expectations. When they sit down to read a mystery, they expect the writer to follow certain rules. They want to follow detectives as they try to solve a crime, look over their shoulders, and guess right along with them.. They don’t mind being led astray by a few red herrings, but they expect to see the detectives solve their cases by using logical deductions and modern police procedures. Readers don’t want an entirely new character to appear in the last chapter and confess. That’s cheating! If a couple of very suspicious characters turn out to be good citizens, that’s okay because all of us misjudge people on occasion.
So, you can understand my dilemma when I sat down to write a police procedural mystery with a paranormal component. I couldn’t have the ghost perform any tricks to help solve the crimes. I couldn’t have the ghost whisper to Josh Harrell that Mr. Jones is the killer. What kind of experience would that be for my readers? Instead, I had to make absolutely sure that Detective Frankie Ryan solves the case logically so readers can guess along with her and feel they haven’t been cheated.
What I wound up doing in Silent Partner was to have a two-pronged search for a killer. Frankie uses modern police procedures while Josh gets occasional hints from his spiritual guide. As long as they both wind up at the same place at around the same time, the process works.
Having said that, I want to point out a number of other elements of my novel that fit neatly into the modern police procedure mystery; I’m talking specifically about the detective-hero, the protagonist in so many modern mysteries. Think of Harry Bosch in the Michael Connelly novels as an example. The detective is generally a loner, even if he or she works with a partner. The detective often is at odds with departmental chiefs because they are more concerned with protecting their jobs than in solving cases. Similarly, the detective often disregards departmental rules for the greater good.
Most detectives have personal problems; they tend to be a lonely group that drinks heavily. They are very moral, though, and incapable of selling out. They are fearless and relentless when it comes to solving a case, even if that means putting themselves in danger.
Often detectives relate best to the “little people” within the department, the hardworking CSI technicians who aren’t political. Detectives are very bad at politics. They don’t have the heart to kiss up to those above them. They frequently are in danger of being fired or demoted; other officers don’t understand their passion for their “mission” and think of them as a bit deranged.
So, even though I did add a paranormal element to my novel, I followed the rules for the most part when it came to my detective. She’s a female version of a long line of detective-heroes leading up and including Harry Bosch. In fact, my intention in writing Silent Partner was to create a female Harry Bosch.
I hope you enjoy reading Silent Partner and following the clues strewn throughout the book. I’ve certainly seeded the trail with plenty of hints. See if you can discover the killer before Detective Frankie
You can find out more about Stan on his WEBSITE, where he has a blog and follow him on TWITTER His publisher is offering a 15% discount of the $14.97 cover price for pre-orders that will ship on September first. You can order from the Pen-L Publishing Website