Musing Mysteries, Part 2

Okay, so how many of you are ready to attend a writers’ conference? Let’s see hands. C’mon, don’t be shy. I’d love to meet you. Even though I’m giving you a sneak peek at my presentation, it’ll be way more fun in person. Really. Promise.
WI2018 Check out the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute. It’s an amazing three days (four if you count the extra presentations on Thursday) dedicated to writing. Whether you are practicing the craft (we’re always practicing, right?) or starting the quest toward publishing, the Writers’ Institute is a great opportunity to learn, meet other writers, and enrich your creative energies. Here’s a little view into the fun: Writers’ Institute Pathway to Publication.
Eight-ish weeks to go. I’m getting excited–I’ll get to see my Writing Sisters. Can’t wait!
“Are you about ready, love?” My Muse is leaning on my desk in my writing office. He checks his bare wrist as if he kept a Timex there.
“Why, you have an appointment?”
He straightens and crosses the office to the white board. “No, but you do. What’s next on your list of clues to writing mysteries?”
200w_d
I grab a marker and add another entry to the list on the board. “The clock is ticking. A deadline.”
“Okay. What’s your deadline in Book 2?”
Hmm. “My main characters are only in town for three days.” I hold up a hand. “Don’t. Just don’t. I know, I know, three days. How many impossible missions were accomplished in three days?” That has got to be the most common deadline ever. I mean, outside of Kiefer Sutherland’s famous twenty-four hour countdown.
My Muse sighs. “At least it made a little sense. These days a team of geniouses save the world in mere hours every week. In a one-hour show.”
Nothing like the regular usage of the deux ex machina plot device—the oh-my-gawd-how-lucky-that-theory-actually-came-through (a “magical” intervention of some thing) tropeto allow Team Scorpion to stop a tsunami, or prevent an underground explosion that would’ve destroyed L.A., or catch two kids who have to jump out of an airplane at precisely the same time to land in a net (that was a Valentine’s Day episode). Probably not the best example of working against a deadline.
“Anyway. l’ve got a three-day deadline. Next?”
“Doesn’t seem like your main character is in a whole lot of danger.”
I point to the previous entries. Characters and stakes. “We went over the stakes already. And the characters. And the threat to the main characters, remember? The drug boss. The teacher who helped the protagonist after the attack, and who is now suspected of murder.”
“Raise them.”
“Excuse me?”
He adds to the list. “How can you raise the stakes, love?”
Raise them? More? “You heard the part about the drug boss, right? And how she thinks my main character is involved with the victim who was stealing from her.”
“Yes, I remember.” He underlines the entry on the list. “What can you do to the story that will make the main character less likely to quit?”
Hmm. If the main character was related to the suspect, or the victim, that would increase the risk to the main character. That won’t work with this story. There is a connection between the suspect and the protagonist. And a connection between the suspect and the victim.
“The victim is the suspect’s son-in-law.” I call this ‘blood is thicker than water’, because a connection between relatives has more meaning than between strangers.
“Better. Can you do more?”
A connection between the antagonist and the protagonist, or the protagonist and the victim, or the victim and the suspect are solid ways to raise the stakes. So, how can I ratchet things up?
Aha. “The suspect’s son died in an accident, and he learns the victim was involved. Oh, did I mention the suspect and the victim are family–by marriage?”
“Good. Now use that.”
I am. The trick is going to be using that to increase the threat to the protagonist. I’ll have to noodle on that for a bit. Two more down: deadline and raising stakes even more.
In other news, Week 2 word total is 21,816, about 1500 words short of the 23,338 I should’ve hit. It’s been slow, but I’ve gotten past the inciting incident now, so the story should flow faster. I will say that writing 1 to 2 hours every night is helping charge my creative energies.
Keeping my Muse close doesn’t hurt either 😀
Have a great writing weekend!

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