This week: Another puzzle for the sleuthEdited by: Kate=Secret Pal ~ 1063838
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All that I see or seem is but a dream within a dream.
Welcome to this week's edition of the Mystery Newsletter. A mystery by nature is a question in search of an answer - a puzzle! And when we uncover the answer to the question, effectively solving the puzzle moments before the writer gives us the solution, follow clues tactile and cerebral, the momentary satisfaction is sublime! And we can have fun along the way.
If there were no mystery left to explore
life would get rather dull, wouldn't it?
Welcome, fellow puzzle-weavers. The satisfaction of finding clues and solving the puzzle that is a mystery is in the searching. And while we search, we may find clues planted that don't quite fit, or encounter characters with a strong voice who want to keep searching for, and solving, a different solution to the same puzzle or the solution to more puzzles.
So, we have the seeds of a series, but how do we know that the characters are able to solve another puzzle without losing their identity or voice, and without being repetitive - doing the same old thing in the same old way?
Consider some of the series many of us have read, and why we keep reading and enjoying them, familiar yet unique, each puzzle different, while offering a sense of continuity. Have you read and kept reading mysteries solved by any of the following: Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn; Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder; Ruth Rendel's Chief Inspector Wexford; Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks; Amanda Cross's Kate Fansler, Ed McBain's Detective Carella (87th Precinct series); Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew? Add here some of your own favorites I'm thinking here classic mysteries (i.e., solving crimes) as opposed to blended genre mysteries; or to the 'thrillers' which, I think, have their own parameters. Some of these characters are found not only in novels (or novellas) but short stories as well
Each has strong, memorable characters and an original concept.
Important, I think, is a protagonist with whom we can empathize, if not necessarily identify. The character has a life outside the puzzle - a history, personal beliefs, mores, fears, physical attributes. For example, if he/she is a tall, blonde, sharp dresser, quick to act in one story, he/she does not become a quiet, laid-back sleuth who hesitates to act before pondering all possible solutions. If a professional in the field of solving crime, he/she does not return as an amateur. If he/she has a passion for cooking, in a later story that skill is not reduced to failed attempts to bake boxed mac & cheese. That does not mean the character cannot change, but there's an evolution, a reason that causes the change which can be foreshadowed in one story and revealed as the next mystery unfolds.
If an antagonist also returns, likewise there is continuity. The manner of the inciting puzzle, personality traits, interaction with the protagonist. I've recently been reading Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series, and there's one antagonist that re-appears occasionally (not in each book) to challenge the 'good guys,' the Deaf Man (no spoiler do I offer to those who are intrigued but have yet to encounter this series, that ran 30+ years.
So how do we keep them straight from one mystery to another? I interview my characters, taking note of their appearance at the interview, hair, eyes, dress, smile or frown, voice, tone, you get the picture. Then I ask questions about family, one greatest fear, most memorable success, hobbies, passions, among others. I use my pencil and pad, then transfer as a file (adding detail) in a folder on my desktop. I want to get to know them, even though not everything in the interview shows up in detail on the pages of the puzzle, they will still impact the actions of the characters. Not only will this keep them straight if they go on to solve more puzzles, but also serves to avoid sudden changes within one mystery.
In real estate, they say it's "location, location, location." In a mystery, likewise, the characters live in a city, a town, a village, and interact with others in that community. We invent the community, and part of the puzzle is finding clues within that space. The characters are 'at home' for the most part, and our characters (and readers) step into the locale and become familiar with it. So, if our characters are in one story living in an urban community, with ethnic neighborhoods in which they interact, we won't recognize them if they return in a small town or a major metropolitan isolated area.
Time and aging. As readers, think about it, we don't want to see the characters age in real time, nor stay exactly the same. We don't want either to see them appear only in wintertime, or onlly summertime. We do want them to evolve and grow as does their community. It's not always summer, nor winter, and the changing of seasons impacts the means of solving puzzles and provides insight into the characters themselves. As for aging, consider that we want to see them grow and evolve, but not in real time. It's more fun to pick up where the character(s) left off, with an interlude to account for changing times, social mores and the like. The rookie cop may next be a detective or perhaps a desk sergeant, for example. .
So why not flip through the clues and possibilities that don't quite fit the puzzle you are weaving for your characters and offer them a new puzzle to solve in their own unique manner. Consider a series of poems, short stories, and novels if you will, and let them explore possibilities unique to each, yet consistent with the voice and tone of the characters who started it all
I invite you to check out soe of the puzzles woven by several members of our Community that lend themselves to growth and evolution over time = a series; and if you will, let the writers know how you relate to the characters and their strategy in solving the initial puzzle Then why not introduce one of your own
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I thank you for sharing this exploration with me and invite you to share some of your favorite series and characters with whom you can identify and would like to see in future mysteries (your own included).
Until we meet again, I'm wishing all your mysteries are resolved to your satisfaction; for the moment
Kate=Secret Pal ~ 1063838
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