I love reading mystery books but I rarely consciously try to figure out whodunnit. Obviously my brain starts to try to put it together because my brain works just like everyone else’s – trying to find meaning wherever it can. But it’s not like I stop and puzzle it out, I like to travel along with the characters in the book and just enjoy the journey.
A friend of mine hates when she figures out the murderer in the first part of a book, it usually puts her off so much that she can’t actually finish the book. That never happens to me. There have been lots of books that I haven’t finished* but I don’t think I have ever stopped reading because a book has been too obvious. Perhaps I naturally gravitate toward ones that don’t have automatic guessing built in.
I have tried to write mystery novels before, and I love the idea of writing one, but I am not sure that my outlining and plotting skills are up to it yet. I kind of like writing the kind of stuff that has you in on the plot from the very beginning.
Hmm, maybe I need to write something from the criminal’s point of view then. Never really thought about that before even though I have written many a monologue from the bad dame’s point of view.** Anyway, I don’t know if I have the pacing ready to set up the slow reveal that works so well for the books that I enjoy.
Although, I do murder mystery game parties with a group of improv friends (and I could write one for you to do with your friends – I have reasonable rates. ;))and I have no trouble creating a plot and set of clues for that stuff. I wonder if I could translate that into writing for a mystery story or novels? It seems like the skills would be transferable, doesn’t it? A three act structure, back stories, clues that must be revealed. This is painfully obvious now that I am writing about it.
You know, speaking about mysteries, I love the ‘mysterious’ process that happens to me when I write out issues that are bothering me. When I can’t figure something out, I often just need to write about it because somehow I tap into my subconscious and drag out stuff I already know but I hadn’t applied in that way before. Yet, if you had asked me about it in the first place, I wouldn’t have been able to give you that answer.
This entry is a case in point. I have been working for ages on my challenges with outlining, I only just realized as I wrote that I already know how to outline – I just need to figure out how to transfer the skill.
My writing work and my mystery game work are two different areas of my work life so I hadn’t thought of the underlying skill as being the same. And, since the writing seems to come from a different part of my brain, I hadn’t thought of accessing the organizing skills I use for mystery game structure for the writing process.
This, of course, is ridiculous, because what other damn part would you use for creating a structure? The content of the structure may be creative, the structure itself is clearly an organizational issue. I feel a bit like this fact is smacking me in the head right now. No wonder I was having trouble – I was looking in the wrong toolbox!
Sidenote: My struggle with outlining is obviously also tied into the fact that I hate to prepare to do work. Even though I now know that preparing to work counts as work, it is taking me a long time to get that fact into my subconscious.
*Makes me think of that review by Dorothy Parker – ‘This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly, it should be thrown with great force.’
**Note: Never trust my self-righteous monologue deliverers, they have a skewed worldview.