Mark Arsenault, in a new column in The Providence Journal, writes about writing. Mystery writing to be specific. Writing is not alchemy, he says; it’s more like carpentry. He’ll try to demystify the process by speaking regularly to the best writers in the mystery field to get their tips on storytelling, creating compelling characters, spinning a narrative, and breaking into the business of mystery fiction.
It all starts with an idea, and Arsenault consults with one of the best and most prolific in the business: William G. Tapply. Tapply says he starts with a subject, for example, blackmail. His first task: identify the villain and the victim. Who blackmails whom? Tapply will brainstorm, playing the game: What if? “What if this is 20 years later and it’s her son who found out about it?” he says. “I play out this whole scenario until I have all the details of what happened.”
Tapply calls this the "first story", what happens before the detective gets involved. He then writes a detailed summary that contains clues. “There comes a point for me when a kind of critical mass arrives and I find it’s time to start writing the novel," Tapply says. "Then it’s still a process of discovery because lots of things I thought would happen don’t, and things I never imagined do. But that underlying story remains the same. Sometimes I end up with a different villain. But that process of figuring out what happened — once I got it, I feel confident I can write the story. I have a road map and I don’t feel I’m going to get stuck in the middle.”
Read the rest of the article on ProJo.com here. And we look forward to the next entry in what promises to be a very enlightening newspaper column.
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