Monday, December 18, 2006

The Core Ideas

(Above: St. Martin's Lane, from an old Victorian print)

WHERE DRAGONS LIVE (working title) will be the fourth book in my Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series. Before I ever sat down to write Sebastian’s first book, WHAT ANGLES FEAR, I knew I wanted to write a series. I decided that while each book would be a stand-alone mystery, I wanted the series to also have an overarching storyline of its own. As readers of the series know, all is not as it seems in Sebastian’s life. With each book, that mystery unfolds a little bit more.

I also decided that I would peg many of the mysteries in the series to actual historical events that were occurring in Regency London at the time. Thus, the plot of the first book is closely tied to the proclamation of the Regency in the winter of 1811; the plot of the second book is influenced by the gloomy reports from the warfront in the summer of that year, and the plot of this fourth book is strongly linked to an event that occurred in the spring of 1812. And no, I can’t tell you what that event was, because it would ruin the end of the book.

My plotting of WHERE DRAGONS LIVE thus began with two Ideas: that unnamed Historical Event, and the next steps in the pre-planned evolution of the mystery of Sebastian’s private life, including his troubled relationship with his father, his ill-fated love affair with the actress and French spy, Kat Boleyn, and his long-standing feud with his nemesis, Charles, Lord Jarvis. At this point you’re probably saying, But where’s the victim? Where’s the murder?

Believe it or not, the Idea for the murder was actually the third addition to this brew. It took me a while to come up with it, but I think it’s a good one: the brutal slaughter of eight former prostitutes in a house of refuge run by an old Quaker. The only witness: Hero Jarvis, daughter of Lord Jarvis.

This is where my thinking about the story starts taking off, as I set about answering all the questions that now arise, such as, What in the world was Hero Jarvis doing with a bunch of ladies of the night? and (of course) Who killed them? Why? And what does any of this have to do with the Historical Event of the spring of 1812 that will form the end of the book?

Soon, I’ll talk about how I go about answering those questions. But tomorrow I’m going to bravely wade into that raging, age-old debate: plotting vs. writing “by the seat of one’s pants.”

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

In writing short stories I've often used a kind of Question and Answer approach. Asking myself what I'm seeing, especially what I see that is unusual or unlikely in a situation, but that still has some logical connection to previous events. I'm glad this is at least a part of the plotting process for bigger stories as well.

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