Working on a Plot Point

As a writer, I am always trying to dig up new subjects. I prefer at this point in my career to create novel plots and characters and not to rehash the same old stuff. Never give the reader something expected. It is a real challenge and I look to my everyday life for inspiration. I don’t want to copy other authors. I pride myself on originality. I want to try my hand at something new, and so I have come up with the idea of working on a mystery short story.

Mysteries at any length are challenging as there is a kind of formula for success that you have to follow. You want the crime up front, of course, but some delay in revealing details and clues. The reader wants to be excited about continuing on to reach the climactic end. Thoughts are rolling around in my head and I will test them out with a few initial paragraphs. I will feature a certain kind of odd criminal who will be caught because he cleans up his crime scenes using his victim’s own supplies. Now that’s a twist! I hope it is intriguing. What supplies? Maybe it would work well to have him use the victim’s vacuum cleaner so that forensics could find clues in the bag. The question is whether the criminal is smart enough to take it with him. So, the victim must have a bagless model in his closet. I see the killer searching about to find it, then “aha.”

If I opt for a bagless unit like the ones on The Vacuum Challenge, I then must be sure to have the hapless criminal leave something behind. Do I tell the reader immediately or do I wait and have forensics scour the crime scene? Which will have better punch and enrich the plot? These are the kinds of questions that writers ask themselves. There is no one uniform answer. I can do it both ways. As a matter of fact, I just might do that and test different versions with family and friends. Sometimes when I am lucky, stories practically write themselves in a few hours. This time it is a mystery which is quite a different animal. It takes concentration and careful structuring to excel at this genre.

Criminals always leave the weapon behind so that road is too frequently traveled. They drop hairs that contain DNA and are found under furniture or in a corner. It takes a while for the inspectors to notice it, making the tension build. How about leaving something different and less obvious. Let me think….

A cufflink? A wallet? A coin he had touched? He would be too careful to pick up something before, during, or after the crime. Now I have it: a contact lens. This is tiny, hard to see, contains residual eye fluid and therefore DNA. It can be identified by brand as well. This is how it will be lined to the killer. When he is caught, the authorities will see that he wears contacts. They will go back to the scene of the crime and search for one.


Dealing with Writer’s Block

What do you do when you get writer’s block? I succumb to this “disease” often when I have been working long and hard, especially on several projects at one time. If there is a deadline looming, I can go into panic mode. Fortunately, this is not that often. It is a great joy when you get inspired and the words flow. It is a gift which makes people writers in the first place. There are a few things you can do to help the situation and get things moving along:

Relax and meditate to clear the mind. Find a dark quiet place with no one around. It will probably be at home. Any time of day is fine as long as you are not distracted. Don’t watch the kids, leave something on the stove, or have obligations.

Read someone else’s writing and absorb the vocabulary and style. It happens automatically and takes you away from your own blockage.

Take regular breaks from writing. Some people have to work on a schedule but there is no need to be obsessive about it. It is fine to try to write a few hours every day, but don’t be a slave to your self-imposed regimen. It is stressful to sit in front of a blank page on your laptop.

Reread some of your old work. It will make you realize that you can achieve success.

Exercise at least a few days a week to get the heart rate going and to pump up your energy. I like to play basketball when I can find someone to shoot hoops for practice. I can’t commit regular time for a team.

When I can’t go out as I am on a roll, I pretend that I am playing because I have installed a mini basketball hoop in my home office. I throw all my crumpled-up pages of bad writing through it.

It feels like you’ve accomplished at least something. Ha! I know it isn’t really true exercise and I even have a small ball in my desk as a kind of mockery of the real sport. When I have writer’s block (I call a mental cramp), this makes me laugh and I move on.

My biggest piece of advice is not to fall apart when writing seems impossible, like you never wrote a story or article before. Don’t let it get you down. Mood is really important when this is your profession. You need to be relaxed when sitting at your desk or table, stress free and ready to begin. Know that words don’t come in one second or two. Newbies take note. Veterans don’t expect miracles. They can text friends, read emails, listen to music or watch a little TV, either before or during their writing activity. You can’t force things. If you are not a natural writer, you need to learn to get in the zone. Good luck and happy writing.