Amy Reade won a copy of Susan Holmes audio book, and Jake won a copy of my audio book. Congratulations!
Recently I lost my glasses. I looked everywhere I’d been in the house. Nothing. I was frustrated and needed them, and I suddenly remembered some advice Pete gave Sandi Webster in Old Murders Never Die (The Sandi Webster Mysteries). “Look up, look down, look all around.” Actually, that was advice my husband gave me that he remembered from the Police Academy. I use a rather tall roll top desk. I stood up and there were my glasses, on top of the desk. Duh.
Actually, the advice we hear in real life often comes in handy in a mystery, or any other genre. The more realistic we can make our stories, the better they are. Even if someone offers bad advice, it can work in a book.
I said realistic stories, but that’s only partially correct. Fiction wouldn’t be fiction if it didn’t have the characters make some unrealistic mistakes. These errors often move a story along. So we have to find a good combination of reality and Uh Oh Moments.
Maybe Jane Doe hurries into the house, sets a bag of groceries on the kitchen table, drops her purse with everything spilling out, and the dog or cat immediately begins begging for food. (Let’s make that both a dog and a cat, and the dog is a Miniature Toy Poodle.) The phone starts ringing, and someone knocks on the front door. Jane grabs a cookie to tide her over until she can fix dinner, and as she races for the phone, the heel brakes off her shoe. In the process of trying to take care of everything, she forgets to lock the back door. Uh Oh Moment. The knocking on the front door stops and she remembers the unlocked back door just as she answers the phone and drops it in a sink full of cold dish water left from the morning.
She hears a noise at the back door and remembers it isn’t locked. She looks up, looks down and all around, trying to find something to defend herself with but when she races to the drawer with kitchen tools in it, the lights go out.
A dark figure quietly enters through the back door before she can lock it. Will the dog or cat save her?
In my other series, The Bogey Man Mysteries, Chris Cross had several Uh Oh Moments. He enjoys using 1940s slang, which can be fun, but he used slang words and phrases too often. Writers learn through their characters mistakes. The character has settled down and uses words like “bullet bait” (target) and “cheese it” (run away) less all the time.
By the way, Jane knows she may now be bullet bait and she’d better cheese it to the front door before the dark stranger can overtake her, but she trips over the dog and falls to the floor.
I’m sure glad my name isn’t Jane.
Listen to advice when people offer it. You can take it or not, your choice, but either way you might be able to use it in a fictional story. Sometimes being a good writer means practicing good listening skills.
We’ll talk about the skill of observation in another post. We need to listen to advice, opinions, and general conversation in order to hone our own writing skills. Needless to say, our characters should do the same thing, unless it will further the story to have them miss something.
By the way, Jane’s boyfriend will never let her forget this little adventure. He adds it to his list of Priceless Jane Stories.
Until next time, if you lose your glasses or your keys, now you know the best way to look for them.
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