I may have to borrow from Jimmy Buffett here if I run out of ideas but hey, Jimmy, I remember you at Bubbas, so ‘nuff said. Those of you who did not go to or hang out at the University of Miami in the early 1970s will have to make up your own stories. No, I did not know Jimmy Buffett then, or now, for that matter. But there was that wild night in Sint Maarten when I did tell him not to quit his day job. But that’s not what it sounds like either. And I doubt he’d even remember it. Jimmy, I’m glad you didn’t take my advice, but acapella, you don’t sound like you!
How does that relate to writing? It’s all about the story and not committing the seven deadly writer sins.
#1 Thou shall not head hop.
What is head hopping? Mavis asked herself.
How can she not know, Peter wondered? She does it all the time.
Jack shook his head in amazement and bit his tongue. Those two would argue over which way to screw in a lightbulb. “I have whiplash,” Kait moaned.
#2 Thou shalt not hide clues from your readers.
The key to keeping your books from hitting the wall when readers get to the end is to always play fair. This is harder than it sounds. When the sleuth stumbles across, uncovers, or develops a clue, the reader has to know at precisely the same moment. As a writer, I always feel as if a kick line of Rockettes is surrounding the fireworks shooting neon colored clue. My beta readers generally don’t have the same impression.
#3 Thou shalt not make thy victim a saint.
Everyone has good and bad points. There are few random crimes in the mystery writing world. There are some, but in those books, the perpetrator is known, the story is about something else. While the victim does not have to have a fatal flaw, he or she does need to be flawed. He or she is human, just like the rest of us. Those flaws may or may not have provided a motive.
#4 Thou shalt not make thy criminal Satan.
Even a murderer’s dog loves him. See above for good and bad points. It is essential that your criminal is human, and can hide in plain sight among the suspects which brings me to number 5.
#5. Thou shalt not point thy finger at only one character.
Multiple suspects are essential. Draw them out as if they are each the perpetrator and give every suspect motive, means, and opportunity. No one did this better than the two Dames, Agatha Christie and PD James.
#6 Thou shalt not forget to resolve thy red herrings.
I read a book once that had more loose ends than my first attempt at crochet. Suffice it to say I did not pick up another by that author. So, even if you don’t have a solution for a particular red herring (and there are times when life can imitate art) honor your reader and have your protagonist at least acknowledge it.
#7 Thou shalt not forget that writing is best accomplished when accompanied by chocolate and wine or the libation of your choice!
Your mileage may vary for these very simple seven deadly sins. Writers and authors—do you have a different list?
Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.
Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.