Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Author Spotlight - The Right Balance When Writing A Whodunit By Nike Chillemi

I like a lot of action in my whodunits. Maybe that's why I loved THE LINCOLN LAWYER, the book and the movie. Well, truth be told, I went totally ga-ga for Matthew McConaughey. Then again, perhaps that's a discussion best saved for another time.
To satisfy my reading tastes a whodunit must have suspense, romance, action, and a dash of humor…in that order. Of course when the fellas write a mystery story they often whip up more action than romance. Some male mystery writers eliminate the romance all together. Those stories work and I enjoy reading them. But I'm a lady mystery writer and romance is part of what I do.

Since we're talking whodunits, suspense is the main element in the plotline and will have the greatest word count. The theory of mystery writing I subscribe to starts out with a dead body. The story opens with a crime scene which in real life is often chaotic. EMS, various law enforcement personnel, and sometimes the press are all doing their jobs at the same time. To depict this type of atmosphere accurately, the writer must maintain a high level of suspense from page one. To do that the pace must be kept up. The hunt for a killer has begun. Write in short spurts. Create snappy dialog. The trick is not to reveal too much, but just enough to keep the reader turning pages.

To my mind, once the suspense is taut and fast paced what is needed is romance to balance it out. I'll often write the romance scenes in prose that are more fluid than the staccato rhythm of my suspense and action scenes. However with strict adherence to my character's voice. My favorite murder mystery characters are uber-flawed. I like to create protagonists who desperately need love in their lives, but that's the last thing they want because they've been so badly hurt. Kiera Devane, pioneer newspaper woman and heroine in my historical psychological whodunit, PERILOUS SHADOWS, is just like that. Only love can heal her tortured soul, but she's afraid to let anyone get close to her. Of course all that changes when she meets ace radio broadcaster Argus Nye.

Next in the mix comes action. Many of us who write in the crime fiction genre do not tote a semi-automatic weapon or know how to engage in combat style martial arts. However, we'd best write as if we do. The writer has to do his/her homework. What is the proper police procedure for the situation your protagonist is in? Make sure to accurately describe a roundhouse kick and know what type of ammunition your heroine should be using in her Glock. At the murder scene or when facing down the bad guys is not the time to give the protagonist prolonged internal dialog or to have him/her wax philosophical. Your main characters are human and infallible. They don't have to win every fight. Still they can't be so badly injured that it would be unrealistic for them to carry on the investigation. I like to beat up my main characters. In my debut novel BURNING HEARTS, I pretty badly beat up Harley Davidson riding, WWII war-hero Lorne Kincade. I'm not sexist about this in the least. So, in GOODBYE NOEL, I beat up heroine Katrina Lenart. My main characters are in a struggle: right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, they are trying to avenge the murder of an innocent victim. As a Christian perhaps that's why I'm drawn to this genre.

I find humor is a great way to relieve tension. It can also slow down romance when needed. In real life detectives indulge in witty and even snarky banter to break tension. Some detectives and other law enforcement personnel in the story should do this as well, for the same reason.

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Desert Breeze Publishing.