Sunday, January 3, 2016

Solving the Mystery

Behind the Story of Uncertain Murder

(Part 5, the Last)

Warning:  this post contains spoilers for the first 3 books of the Watchbearers series (and HUGE spoilers for Uncertain Murder) and I recommend reading those books first.  Also be warned that this shows the ‘sausage-making’ aspect of writing, which some of you may not want to know about.

Once I had the general idea for the story and the basic building blocks which would help me write it, I discovered how it would all play out chapter by chapter as I put it down on the page, introducing the various characters and the plot elements which would develop the narrative as twists and turns appeared along the way.  But as a second then third person was murdered and the revelations came rapidly, I still didn’t know the solution to the mystery.  Who had killed Keener and Oak and Talia, and why?  To answer that central question, I had to play armchair sleuth the same as if I’d been reading a whodunit written by another author.

Imagine you’ve been reading a mystery and gotten two-thirds of the way through the story – there have been more murders, some surprising developments, and all kinds of clues to consider – only to find you’re missing the rest of the book.  You can’t continue reading to find out the solution, so you’ve got to figure it out for yourself.  Come up with an answer so satisfying that you feel it’s the way the story should have, must have concluded.  That’s what I had to do.

Of course, as I’ve written the first drafts of previous books, I’ve had to discover how the challenges would be overcome and problems resolved as I approached the climax, not knowing beforehand how that would happen.  But there’s something different about getting to the last third of a mystery novel and not knowing whodunit.  Or why or how.  I’d had a lot of suspects when I started, and I’d known some of the surprises in store.  But that still left a lot I hadn’t known.

So as I approached the end, I had to keep asking myself not only what would happen next, but what solution would make sense of everything that had happened so far – as well as figure out how Sam and Bailey would arrive at that same explanation.

Then there was the attempt on Sam’s life, and I realized there were two central mysteries involved, and how solving one of those puzzles, and discovering which pieces belonged to it, would then resolve the other mystery.  And that was exactly how everything would come into focus for Sam.

The only thing that then remained was confronting the killers and exposing the truth of who had done what and why (which is always thrilling.)  And making sure the culprits would be dealt with by the proper authorities.  And teaming Turner up with Sam and Bailey so he could eventually get back to his wife – though before that, those three would be moving on to their next adventure.  I planted the seeds for that in the epilogue.

Yes, there’s more to Turner’s suggestion that they all go back in time three years than meets the eye.  After all, if the time-travelers show up in 1989, wouldn’t Turner have known that then and searched for them?  Of course he would, and did.  But that, as they say, is another story.

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