Blood Lines

The mystery of writing … well, mysteries

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    A rainy dawn breaks over a slum neighborhood in Washington, DC to reveal the brutally beaten body of a prominent judge. A few hours later, a suspect is arrested. But the judge’s daughter believes there are secrets that drove her father to his death, and she wants to know what they are. Clay Warner, a down-on-his-luck insurance investigator, is determined to discover the truth – and win back the love of his life. But he does not know how deep that truth lies buried, and how far some will go to make sure it’s never uncovered.
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Scene(s) of the Crime

Posted by Kevin on April 9, 2006

Last weekend I actually finished plotting out a scene-by-scene of the first act of my novel. While I've wanted to write a mystery for years, "plot" has always loomed before me like a brick wall. It's my biggest obstacle. Every time I think of a basic premise my internal editor — who's a real asshole — chimes in with comments along the lines of, "It's been done. It's unbelievable. It's stupid." And the worst criticism of all — "Jesus, it's so obvious!"

I know that the first step to accomplishing anything with this process is getting the internal editor to — well, not shut up, I can't shut him up, but I can at least push him aside and try to ignore him. So I decided on my premise, and that's it. It's done. I'm writing it. I decided who gets killed, how, and who I think did it.

And then, following some advice from Hallie Ephron's book, I plotted out a scene-by-scene of the first act. They weren't detailed scene descriptions — just one or three sentences about what happens. So I have a roadmap for the first 100 pages or so. I didn't touch the second or third acts. I decided to sketch out the first act and get it written and then I'll work on the next one.

What I didn't do was write out detailed character sketches. In the past, during my many false starts, I spent a great deal of time, and wrote a lot of pages, about characters. I spent so much energy writing lengthy life stories and filling out questonnaires about characters big and small ("What's her favorite restaurant?" "What color are her eyes?" "What were the major milestones of her youth?") that I ran out of steam and got sick of them before I could even start the damn book.

Recognizing that no one process works for everybody, I decided that these past attempts were not just false starts, but learning processes. (This makes me feel better, anyway.) What I learned was that I'm innately pretty good at character — at least instinctively grasping who a particular character is (whether I'm good at writing them remains for others to judge). So I'm not wasting a lot of time writing out these biographies. Instead, I have one character "bible" document where I wrote some brief sketches about each major and minor character I've thought of so far, in order to keep track of them. I can add as needed as I go along.

It's plot that trips me up and where I need to get organized. So that's how I'm handling it this time.

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One Response to “Scene(s) of the Crime”

  1. Larcik-hr said

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