Winging It: Our Ever-evolving Mystery Writing Method #4

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Back in “Winging It #1” I discussed how the basic structure of a mystery required a setting, and a detective, and a crime, and how that crime is most often a murder. A Halo for Red Betsy is standard detective fare in this way; the victim is killed and a detective is tasked with finding the killer. As our first novel, we thought it best to stick with something basic, especially since all we knew about writing in this genre we had garnered from reading other such novels.

In other words, we had no idea what we were doing, but it provides for a wild ride.

One thing we did, and I would not do this again, was to decide on some of the clues and red herrings without being certain as to how they contributed to the story. Three such clues were a Lieutenant Commander’s insignia (the rank of the chief suspect) found in the victim’s hotel room, and a hand bag missing from that same room, and $10,000 hidden in the victim’s apartment.

I honestly had no idea how we would use these clues/red herrings when we started writing, though we found ways to make them work. Still, I would not want to repeat that process.

While there is a murder The Cheongsam Bombshell, the chief suspect is Keegan’s girl, Julie Flynn. Frank knows she’s being framed and so has his hands full keeping her safe while he searches for the actual killer without the help of the police, who are focused on Julie.

With regards to clues, we took different approach in writing The Cheongsam Bombshell, deciding what clues were needed along the way, and whatever red herrings we could get away with, and writing them in. This method had advantages over how we approached Betsy because we painted ourselves into fewer corners, but it also involved returning to completed material to plant clues.

We’ve put more planning into Lost Daughters, the third Frank Keegan mystery, and don’t intend on dropping in random clues. Still, the writing method is the same; we start with Chapter One and move forward, making it up as we go, albeit within a clear frame work. Unlike with Betsy, I think that this time we have a clearer idea about where we want to go, and won’t be making major changes along the way.

Especially since we already have a plan for Book 4 and we need this one to end where that one begins. That is the plan, anyway. The characters, both new and returning, may have other ideas.

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