Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And the Murderer Is… Um, Let Me Think About That Again


Full confession: I’m within some 75 pages of the end of Who Bells the Cat (working title only; I don't know yet if I can keep it), and I’m considering changing the identity of the murderer.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I did it in the very first mystery I wrote, Midnight Confessions. I’ve even switched a couple of times in the Sebastian series, although never anywhere near this late in the writing of the story.

So why do I suddenly decide, No, wait! It’s not him. I think it's actually her? Sometimes I make the switch because I come up with a great new twist. Sometimes I realize that a sequence of events that seemed perfectly logical in abstract doesn’t hold together as well as expected once I get down to the nitty-gritty details. Once I even turned a murderer into a mere innocent suspect largely because I’d come to like him too much to turn him into a rat at the end. (No, I’m not going to tell who, so don’t ask!) Funny, I can kill off characters I like, but I have real trouble assassinating their characters.

I’m the kind of writer who likes to plot her books out very, very carefully in advance, so this kind of radical change is always both disconcerting and exciting. But my outlines have never been straightjackets. I recently moved a scene up over a hundred pages, from halfway through the book to about the 100 page mark; suddenly all the problems I’d been having with the manuscript magically disappeared. I’ve dropped everything from scenes and entire chapters to characters and motives. I dearly love adding new twists and subtle nuances. And just often enough to keep me on my toes, Sebastian will tell me, “No, you’ve got it wrong. He didn’t do it; he did.”

The photo above is from a great blog, Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World.


Anonymous said...

I thought I was slightly weird because I like to take pictures of my wife at famous graves -- Kennedy, Elvis, James Joyce, Schliemann, etc. I rather like the sound of "taphophilia". :)

(still to lazy to sign in)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you liked my photograph. Isn't he lovely?


cs harris said...

Mike, it's a great word, isn't it?

Loren, I stumbled on your blog by accident and wasted way too much time on it! I have ALWAYS loved cemeteries, dragging my indulgent Grandpa all around the Boot Hills of the West, then charging on to Australian Colonial cemeteries, World War II Pacific cemeteries, and of course all the great cemeteries of Europe. And don't get me started on New Orleans cemeteries. See? Crazy about cemeteries.

nana said...

well, that's exciting for us, readers. If even YOU are wrong about the identity of the killer, we sure are going to have a blast to guess/find who is he(she/they)!!^^ Which is the whole purpose in a mistery right?! Guessing who is the culprit (& preferably before sebastian!!^^)

Once I even turned a murderer into a mere innocent suspect largely because I’d come to like him too much to turn him into a rat at the end.

in the sebastian series? Damn, now I will have to re-read them to guess who was this suspect!! :)

personnally I love the title "who bells the cat" I would be a little disappointed if that was changed for another one.
& even if it would have nothing to do with Kat, it's a good title for a mystery with her more present. She is the kind of girl courageous enough to bell the cat!! :)

Funny, I can kill off characters I like, but I have real trouble assassinating their characters.

for me, your most beautiful killing off was guinevere in "When gods die" she was the one whom moved me the most in all your victims. she & her old husband were beautiful characters. so tragic & sad but a beautiful kind of love.

really great picture you chose.

Didn't you say 7 & 8 would come out in 2012? the 8 at the end of the year? Is that still the case?

Charles Gramlich said...

Uh oh, you're coming perilously close to pantsing it here. :)

Steve Malley said...

LOL CHarles! :) I was *just* going to say that!

vp said...

I love cemeteries as well. Everytime we travel, i tend to look for interesting cemeteries and drag my poor husband through them.

Um, also, going to have to know who the original murderer was in Midnight Confessions. You can't taunt me like that. That would just be mean.

cs harris said...

Nana, I have my fingers crossed on the title. And I agree with you about Guinevere; that sense of betrayal and disillusionment she suffered really touched my heart. I give credit to Nelso DeMille; after seeing the movie made from his The General's Daughter, I decided I'd try to make many of my murder victims sympathetic.

And I'm sorry, but they're decided to bring out When Maidens Mourn in March 2012 and Book #8 in March 2013. I was really hoping I could get my old November slot back, but no.

Charles, I know. Scary.

Steve, I've come to the conclusion I have this illusion of control. But it's all an illusion.

Vp, My lips are sealed!

Anonymous said...

How many books will be in this wonderful series? Please say 25... :)

Judith Starkston said...

Villains do have a way of weaseling themselves into our hearts and then we don't want to attach such villainous actions to them. I've been outlining a new book, the villain is a bit locked in because of the history behind the plot, and I have had to force myself to keep him in his place. His accessory, however, is not cooperating at all! He appears to be in the middle of a mental breakdown just trying to accomplish anything evil....Sigh

cs harris said...

Anon, I honestly don't have a set number in my head. I know what I want to happen in people's personal lives, and I have lots of ideas of murders. So I'll probably keep going until I feel like I'm getting tired and I worry my writing will start getting stale. I'd rather quit while I'm ahead.

Judith, I think villains we can partially sympathize with make the best villains of all.

Anonymous said...

I started and discarded Mermaids because of cannibalism. Did your publisher tell you your stuff wasn't gory enough for modern readers?