Having a Character Read a Book

I had a reasonably major character who was waiting someplace for some other characters to arrive, and she was reading a book to pass the time. Then I decided to go for it. Not only am I going to actually say which book it is, it’s going to be Pride and Prejudice.

Not only is she going to like the book, I think she’s going to talk about it with the brothers.

For some odd reason, this feels almost transgressive. I don’t know why; there’s no rule against having a character read a good book. In fact, there are plenty of instances in golden age mysteries of characters talking about other fictional detectives. There’s no reason I can’t have the characters talk about an interesting subject on occasion.

Need More Backstory

As I mentioned, I’ve been working on the story for He Didn’t Drown in the Lake (the third chronicle of Brother Thomas). I have the “what really happened” written out, and it’s about 5000 words. And I realized I need more.

The first thing I have to do is to add to what-really-happened and include what was going on until the Brothers arrived. There’s a whole bunch of characterization that will happen in those hours between when the police arrive to view the body and when the brothers arrive. In theory, I could just make notes of that, but I tried a bit and it seems like there’s no substitute for actually writing out the story as if it were a novel, even though it won’t (directly) go into the novel.

The other thing I need to write out, in addition to the outline I’m working on, is a schedule for the camp. When does paddleboard yoga happen every day, when are the horseback rides every day, etc. The camp would have a schedule, and I can already tell that I’m going to get horribly lost unless I come up with one, too.

At least I have one paragraph of the actual story written.

Decisions, Decisions

I’m working on the what-really-happened story for the third chronicle of Brother Thomas, tentatively titled He Didn’t Drown in the Lake. (As I’ve mentioned before, I think of a murder mystery as a story-within-a-story, except that the interior story is told backwards; I write that interior story first to ensure consistency.)

I’m up to about 3,000 words so far. The murderer killed the victim and the search party is out looking for the murdered man (because he didn’t come home for hours from his short evening walk). It’s coming along well and I’m happy with it so far, but man is it a lot of work, on a per-word basis.

The reason it’s a lot of work is, of course, because it’s compressed. I’m only describing the parts that will be relevant later, and so I’m having to make a lot of decisions per sentence. To give an example, how does the search party split up? That will certainly come into play later, and having influence on suspicions. Another big one I had to decide was whether the search party found the body that night, or in the morning. That determines whether the footprints down to the lake where the body went in are easy to find, or not. The problem is, since the search party doesn’t know that this is a murder investigation, if the footprints are easy to find they will be mostly obliterated by the search party walking over them. If they’re in good condition, it will be because the search party didn’t find them—but then the body will have drifted in the lake and the spot where he went in will be hard to find. Both of these are very workable, but I have to decide which one to go with. (I’ve about 95% decided on the search party finding the footprints.)

This decision also affects the timing of the story; the police need to be called in and some suspicion of murder has to arise before the brothers can be called in. I have a preference for them to be called in sooner rather than later, since the evidence will be fresher and guests won’t have left yet, etc.

For all of the jokes about people dropping like flies wherever Jessica Fletcher went, it certainly saved a lot of time and effort over having to have an excuse for her to be called in.