clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Monday, December 9, 2013

Smells Like Trouble

A left, someone who can really sniff out trouble: Louis the Foxhound.

Notice the steely-eyed stare. Ate a bag of shelled walnuts this week. Don't ask how that came out because it did.

On my mind today is the element of suspense within our crime writing. Mystery, detective, cozy, crime: whichever it is we all have malfeasance and, to quote the King, a good case of "somebody done somebody wrong."

The problem comes when we open our little texts and we know something has gone wrong and - boom - there it is in the first chapter. Now, I love a good hook. However, having the body on page five leaves me with no suspense or tension about the crime. Sure, I get to wonder if it is the only body and if Ms. KnittedScarf can solve the crime. I've been cheated out of narrative tension from the crime.

I'm writing about this after reading a handful of stories and a novel draft for critique and finding - gasp - the lack of story. Bloody good writing, though. Great words on the page.

I also need to say here it is my own worst enemy: a linear series of events without so much as an iota of narrative tension and risk. There. I admit I have some baseball-dull bits lying around this yer. Horrendous.

I'm recognizing it before submission to critique and I'm working on changes (though maybe not so well the first half of the year). The bits I've read these past three weeks drove home the point. That's also what critique groups are good for: showing you your problems. Mine is linearity and a lack of tension and so, I saw it in these stories.

So, the emotional journey to a land where we've not been before involves characterization, risk, and tumult. Got to have all of that right up from. Risk. Emotional tumult.

The best stuff is loaded with it. The stuff you read on airplanes has a taste of two of the three. The flavor is as strong as the taste of those pretzels. When did Delta learn to remove all flavor from food? Did that come with Northwest?

I'm off to cause a little tension, enhance some risk, and spill emotional tumult all over the page.

"They have a history" was a phrase my Grandmother used to use about couples that had broken up. I'm going to use that tonight.

You should too. If your going to follow your nose, make sure of what it is you're smelling.

Don't want to sick the dogs on your draft. I've got one that'll eat your homework, too.

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