POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE
By Nandy Ekle
Of all the genres of stories, I really think mysteries are the most fun. You start by introducing your character and the inciting incident, which is usually a crime. Then the rest of the story is like a jigsaw puzzle. The reader is busy trying to put the puzzle together, and when the final piece falls into place, they are either surprised because they didn’t see it coming, or they’re satisfied because they knew it all along.
But, when you stop and think about it, every story is a mystery. It has to be. If your reader opens a book and knows the whole backstory, the whole future story, and everything in between, what fun is that? Even a tale we call predictable is still a mystery. If it’s done correctly, the reader has to go all the way to the end to prove they are right.
One of the ways to keep ‘em guessing is giving clues that might or might not lead them in the right direction. Now, I do not mean lie to your readers, because we must always be honest. But we can cross some signals.
We know that in real life, there are not clear-cut, all good points or all bad points. Every person has strengths and weaknesses. Heroes have flaws and villains have good points. And what we perceive as good or bad is not always the truth of the situation.
If you have a character named Bob who is short and balding, growing thick in the middle and wears bottle bottom glasses, what do you think about him? What if I told you he is middle-aged, been married 20 years to the same woman, and has three children who love and respect him? But the other side of the story is a new talent has shown up, and because of this he is gone most evenings, telling his wife he is working late. When he comes in he smells like cigarette smoke, perfume, and he’s so tired he can barely stay awake. What do you think about him now?
So, in the final scene, when he jumps through a plate glass window during a hostage situation in a restaurant, followed by his secretary who as become his assistant, and together they rescue the hostages and seize the real bad guys, is that what you were expecting?
Did you notice that his wife is one of the hostages that he saves?
Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.