Monday, October 2, 2017

Missing Something?

Thinking and praying for those in Las Vegas. So senseless.

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Have you ever read a book where the protagonist suddenly finds a clue that should have been discovered earlier? And you wonder how such a dolt makes it through the day?

Little known fact about me: I enjoy playing Mahjongg and Search and Find games. The version of Mahjongg that I have is rather complicated thanks to symbols that look similar. The Search and Find games hide clues in plain sight and sometimes they blend in with other objects. If your eyes are tired, you may miss things.

With that said, here’s what I finally (and belatedly) realized. I may be frustrated because I can’t find a clue or a Mahjongg tile, and the phone might ring. I walk away, and when I come back, son-of-a-gun, there’s what I was looking for but couldn’t see, right before my eyes. Sometimes I only have to turn away for thirty seconds and when I look back, there’s the tile I couldn’t see.

I think sometimes we, and our characters, become too intent on finding something. If we/they walk away even for a moment, or leave to do something else, they may see exactly what they were looking for in the first place when they return. (This is the time to thunk yourself on the forehead with the palm of your hand.)

In the Sandi Webster series, something Pete taught Sandi is to look up, look down, look all around. Even that doesn’t always work, until the second time you try it.

Some of the things we read in mysteries aren’t a matter of coincidence; they’re a matter of taking a fresh look at things.

 Have you ever lost your glasses or car keys and searched the entire house in vain? Frustrated, you sit down and glance toward the kitchen. Wait a minute! The last thing I recall doing when I still had the keys in my hand was set the groceries on the sink. Thunk!
You take a look and find your keys sitting next to the cookie jar. You just happened to grab a cookie (or two) before putting the groceries away to stave off that empty feeling in your stomach. Now about those glasses…

We tend to write a lot off to coincidence, when we should be thinking in terms of using fresh eyes and a fresh outlook. If our protagonist becomes too intense, in too much of a hurry or too frustrated, they may very well miss something. In real life, we go through the same thing.

As writers, we sometimes have to plant clues with that in mind. How easy might it be for your character to overlook something important? Another thought is if they’re distracted. Do you think a bad guy might try to distract them when he knows they’re practically touching the clue? They key for the bad guy is not to be obvious. Distraction is always a good… Well, how about that? I got distracted and have no idea what I was going to say.

Half the fun of writing mysteries is to create obstacles for our characters; natural things that we might experience in our own lives.

In the case of those lost keys, what was the clue to finding them? Was it the groceries or the cookies? Or both? Or simply taking the time to go back over what you were doing the last time you saw them. In my case, it would probably be the cookies, especially if they were chocolate.

Until next time, I wish you success in finding whatever it is you lost. Give yourself time, and the answer will come to you.

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Kidnapping, hacking, cybersecurity, prepping – Entrance to Nowhere – A Sandi Webster Mystery has it all. Give it a try and enjoy the adventure.