Hey! That’s writing, too!

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With the exception of Sherlock Holmes, I’ve never been a big fan of mysteries. I prefer to watch them, rather than read them. I love the late Jeremy Brett’s version of Sherlock and was instantly hooked by Benedict  Cumberbatch’s modern version.

I have to stop here for a second and say that “Benedict Cumberbatch” is the most wonderful name I’ve ever heard. It just screams to be the name of a character in a children’s book.

How I managed to write a mystery for children is, well, a mystery.  It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write, and I had no training for it.  Somehow, I pulled it off.  Now that I’m working on a sequel, I realize how little I know about the genre.

I went on the internet and Googled a couple of articles about writing mysteries.  Adult mysteries almost always seem to involve a corpse, so I have to adapt the advice to my target audience.  All in all, I didn’t do a bad job with the first story.  I managed to hit on most of the plot points necessary for a mystery.  Still, I recognize that I have mystery storytelling shortcomings to deal with.

So what’s a writer with no money and very little time to do? I picked up a couple of Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe mysteries.  Chandler had a way with words and unique phrases that forever defined the hard-boiled detective character.  I’m not terribly impressed by his plots, though.  Not much to see there.  With Sherlock Holmes, the mysteries are also pretty simple.  In fact, to my eye, none of the mysteries I’ve been watching and reading have been very mysterious at all.  The most entertaining part about them is the lead detective character.

A big favorite among mystery writers is the “fish out of water” or “accidental” detective.  These characters seem to be primarily older females with no police training at all.  A few do seem to be mystery writers, however.  Lately, I’ve been watching “Murder, She Wrote” on TV.  It ran on American TV for years and starred Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer who can’t walk three feet without stumbling upon a dead body.  Honestly, if I were her friend or relative, I’d steer clear of her.  People around her tend to end up dead or accused of murder.  But Jessica is always there to help the clueless local police find the real culprit.  I am learning a few things, though.  Red herrings, subtle clues, multiple suspects and motives, etc.

Everything I’m learning right now is helping my story.  I’ve accumulated quite a few pages of notes about possible plot twists, characters, and settings. I’m not ready to sit down and get to the “once upon a time” part of getting the actual story on paper, but everything I’m doing now is a part of the writing.  The trick is not to let the research become a substitute for the storytelling.

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