Saturday, September 2, 2017

How to craft a ‘Whodunnit’



I came up with an idea for a murder mystery, in the classic Agatha Christie style, but had no idea how to go about crafting one of those. Rereading many of Christie’s books is a lot of fun, but I get so into the story that I forget to look for the patterns that make up the puzzle. 

Next, I tried Christie’s notebooks. That yielded some good clues as to how it was done, but still something was missing.
I felt I needed something more to put it all together and write one of my own. 

Sitting in a meeting at work one day it came to me. We were talking about how best to seed a sales funnel with marketing content and how there are distinct point along that funnel where say an email recipient will click on a link and look at a product. Just as there is then another point where looking at the product data turns into a request for a presentation which - hopefully - turns into a sale. 

So too with the whodunnit puzzle. You start off with many suspects and through a series of turning points along the funnel the number gets whittled down until you have the culprit. 

Now before you think it’s simple and straightforward, let me assure you it’s not. Just like the customer journey is no longer linear, there are many double backs, red herrings and blind alleys in creating a satisfying murder mystery. 
But the funnel idea with pivotal points where suspects are cleared and clues are added or lost, is a sound one. It gives the writer a place to start putting information for the puzzle, because the writer needs to know who did it and why, but also who the other players are and what part they play. 

If anything it’s a fun exercise in writing and it may just yield a story or a book. We’ll see. 


In the meantime, a short and fun murder mystery - Tulip Craze - can be found on my website under the ‘shop’ tab. As always, sales are secure through a vetted 3rd party and use PayPal. I won’t get to see any of your information. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The surprise that is Twitter



I never thought I would join Twitter, certainly not with how busy I already am. Always said it wasn’t for me, but then in January I changed my mind. I thought it might be a good place to do a little marketing for one of my books. I thought I could tweet a line or two out of Out in the Dark from time to time and it might generate some interest and new sales. 

But little did I know all that was possible on Twitter. I’ve connected with agents, participated in hashtag pitch events where I’ve received interest in currently un-agented and unpublished work. 

I’ve met people looking for information, or sharing their unique art and lives. I’ve had conversations - short 140 character ones - with people all over the world. 

I’ve found story ideas and research leads and a place to share stories that have relevance, such as Tales from the Fountain Pen, which has stories in it that resonate with what is happening in the US today.

Twitter also gives me breaking news and reactions outside of mainstream media, which in the world we live in today, is necessary.  

Sure you find unpleasantness too, but these days you find that even in the grocery store checkout line. By far I’ve found the good outweighing the bad. But maybe I’ve been a tad more selective in who I follow as I learn to navigate this brave new world?


Take a leap of faith and join me: Twitter
And you can also engage with me through my website: www.elynnhwriting.com

Sunday, June 25, 2017

More research off the beaten path

When I started working on my current book in progress I realized I wanted my main character to have certain abilities which help her solve an art theft with international implications and work as part of a shadow team for the FBI’s art squad. (Also see this blog post)

I had some knowledge and minor experiences with what for lack of a better explanation you could call psychic abilities/phenomenon. But what I really wanted to know more about was the nature of energy, the many ways energy works, not just for or on an individual but also how energy interconnects all living things.

When I first arrived in Boulder, CO, at the beginning of my new adventure, I met a woman who is a Reiki master. We talked for some time because I was curious and knew nothing about Reiki. After those first few hours of talking it sounded like Reiki offered a good starting point. Something practical and not just book knowledge. There’s only so much a lay person can read about quantum physics.

I got ‘attuned’ to level 1 and though I started it as purely research, I now find myself actually offering healing energy treatments to others. I’m strongest from a distance even a very great distance – probably because of my deep interest in the nature of energy, I push myself to reach further - and I’ve gotten reports back of remarkable benefits after I ‘send Reiki’. It’s only adding to my understanding of energy and allowing me to create a far more human, yet complex, character for my novel.

From the International Center for Reiki Training website: http://www.reiki.org/
“Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of spiritual healing and self-improvement that everyone can use. It has been effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect. It also works in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery.
An amazingly simple technique to learn, the ability to use Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class. This ability is passed on during an "attunement" given by a Reiki master and allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of "life force energy" to improve one's health and enhance the quality of life.”

We write to learn and explore who we are and the world around us. I don’t recall who said that first, but it’s true.


PS: Animals love it too and will ‘ask’ for it from me when they need it by pushing against my hands and positioning themselves just so under my hands.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Putting your characters on the couch


In the beginning there were the simple forms to fill out per story character: favorite color, height, eye color, best subject in school, best friend, worst friend, favorite music, etc. But I now see that’s no different than the simple introductions at teambuilding events or summer camp. 

Instead of sharing around the campfire, let’s dig a little deeper for truly rich characters. 

I put one of my main characters in a novel I’m working on - SuperSense - on the couch and applied some psycho-analytic tools to find out who she really is. The results surprised me. 

I assembled skills learned from many books and diverse workbooks. 

The process takes you beyond the basics and beyond archetypes, into the heart and soul of your character. Much of the information I learned probably won’t make it directly into the novel, but it will inform Natasha's behavior, her responses, her choices and her actions. 

Next up I grabbed at the villain in the story and discovered the similarities in background, but differences in how they each opted to use that background. How past trauma and upbringing affected the choices they each made. 

We all have things in our past - good or bad - that changed us, made us question our path and choices. If we’re willing to look at those events and find a way to understand how they shaped us, then we can use that information to grow and also to develop richer characters for stories. 

For example: using these psycho analytical processes I was able to discover the reason for Natasha’s reluctance to use her special skills even though she’s sought out by others to use them. I now see the internal conflict she wrestles with almost daily, which is only exacerbated by the initial response she gets from her highly science-driven and logical teammates when she’s tossed into the team.

Natasha was raised by her grandmother (this was news to me until I put her on the couch) and her grandmother was a celebrated psychiatrist who kindly dismissed the girl’s abilities as a form of ‘hysterical’ coping mechanism after the traumas in her early life. 
You can see how that might set up feelings of shame and a reluctance to open up to others about the skills she has. 

I am still refining this character building tool for writers, but I am open to sharing the information and potentially setting up a series of online workshops if there is enough interest. 


Leave a comment, email, tweet or even an old fashioned snail-mail letter to my PO box (address on www.elynnhwriting.com) and I will respond. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Interview


Clearly April is turning out to be a busy month for me. Click the link below to read an interview with me by British author and co-founder of Author's Reach, Richard Hardie.

Feel free to leave a comment to let me know what you think.

http://richardhardies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/interview-with-author-lynn-hooghiemstra.html#comment-form

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Review: Mars One


Mars One by Jonathan Maberry

It’s been quite a while since I indulged in reading a book in one sitting. This past weekend, however, I let everything be and got comfortable with a really good book; reading till very late into the night. (Yes, Monday morning was a little rough)

Mars One is NY Times suspense author, anthology editor, comic book writer, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator and writing teacher/lecturer, Jonathan Maberry’s foray into YA science fiction. I’d say he’s exceeded expectations and in the process has set the bar quite high for his fellow writers. 

Imagine being a 16-yr. old boy and having trained and prepared for the first manned mission to Mars since you were 12. Your mother is an insanely good mechanical engineer and your father is a top notch botanist who will be growing food on Mars for the colonists.  Tristan Hart is no slouch as a mechanic either. Now mix in the normal stuff a 16-yr old boy in love with a girl has to deal with and you start to see how this might be a different adventure. 

The story is very well crafted. And is so much more than boy meets girl and has to leave girl to go to Mars. It asks and manages to thoughtfully answer some very big questions that face humanity. Maberry has created deeply relatable, diverse and intelligent characters who, in a not too distant future, leave behind everything familiar and set out to become the first colonists headed for Mars. 

The science has been meticulously researched and is offered in a very natural way without going over the reader’s head. A treat for a secret space nerd, like me. 

What rounds out this well-written story that follows young Tristan Hart and his parents along with their fellow colonists on their journey, is the depth and breadth of information the author appears to have at his fingertips and is able to blend seamlessly into the narrative: history, philosophy and mythology all fitting neatly in and adding extra layers to the story.

This is an author I would enjoy talking to and learning from over a good meal. The ultimate would be to co-author a novel, but for now I’ll put that in the wish column.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Researching Off The Beaten Path



One of the best parts about writing is that sometimes researching a character for a book takes me off the beaten path and down a different road into territory I’m only barely familiar with. Research gives me the opportunity to learn a little about many different things. Without giving away too much about book I’m working on, let’s just say the main character has a few unusual skills that are needed to solve a mystery that spans the continents.

Today, I thought I’d share with you a short interview with someone who’s helped me in developing my protagonist. Her name is Marie Black and she provides strategic intelligence. You can find a link to her website and more details about her services at the bottom of this interview.

Marie, welcome to my blog. I’m eager to hear your answers as I’m sure my readers are curious about what you do as well.

1. You have an interesting and usual skill set. Can you tell me a little about how you came to develop it or did it appear naturally?
M: When I was little, telepathy was very interesting. Unfortunately, there weren't many minds to practice it with, but I could always read people's thoughts. Since youth I've also developed clairvoyance, clairsentience, clairaudience, and communication with spirits using ancient techniques. I've also mastered Remote Viewing.

2. What kind of work do your skills lend themselves to? And how do you use them?
M: My psi skills have been used to locate missing people, criminals, and terrorists actively engaged in plots to attack large groups of people. I've also helped thousands of people with all sorts of problems. It's like psychic investigation.
I use my skills by tuning into the keywords, people, or a location, and gathering necessary data to answer the questions.

3. Do you think skills such as telepathy and remote viewing are unique or can anyone learn them?
M: I think everyone is born with the gland to develop psi skills, the Pineal Gland is the window. Anyone can learn telepathy and remote viewing, but it takes DAILY practice to get good with psi skills.

4. What is the one thing you wish people would understand about your abilities?
M: Everyone has the potential to develop these abilities, but it takes a lot of focus and practice. Don't give up!

5. If a protagonist in a novel had your skills how would that be a benefit to tracking say an international art thief?
If the protagonist looked at a photo of the stolen art, the location of the thief could be pinpointed no matter where on Earth they were hiding.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by. This should give people a hint of what you do, as well as some clues to the book I'm working on. 

For more information about Marie and her work, please take a look at: