I may be the only New Yorker who has not seen Hamilton.
Correction: I may be the only New Yorker who has no intention of ever seeing Hamilton. It’s not that I think it’s an unworthy effort – I’m sure the world was waiting breathlessly for a hip hop musical about one of my favorite founding fathers. And with the help of a little Krazy Glue, I could probably sit through two hours of rapping colonials.
The reason I probably won’t see it is that a few years ago I wrote Treason, a musical about Benedict Arnold. Since Arnold himself was a notorious traitor, he was an unlikely protagonist. So, in the style of Evita, I have the young Alexander Hamilton serving as a Che Guevara type narrator who takes the audience on the journey, commenting on the action and appearing in key scenes – as he did in real life, being the aide-de-camp to General Washington at the time.
However, being a white woman who writes somewhat traditional musicals, I realize the show that absorbed two years of my life is now dead in the water. I would never be able to convince anyone that I was writing Treason long before Hamilton break danced onto the scene – I have no doubt the word “derivative” would surface with any producer I was foolish enough to approach.
More power to the creators of Hamilton for their fresh new take on an important time in American history – I too believe immigrants “get the job done,” yada-yada-yada. Most of us are immigrants, and one job we got done very efficiently was the slaughter of this land’s only rightful occupants, the Native Americans.
I’m sure Hamilton is an important teaching tool for people who knew little of that time period or the truly fascinating title character. But having done countless hours of research, I’m not in that target audience, so I’ll save my $400, or whatever the outrageous price of a Broadway musical is these days, to see Book of Mormon, thanks very much. Mormons are still a mystery to me.
So what’s a girl to do? Just what you do after a bad breakup – move on, get over it, write a new show. I’m thinking about a rap version of the Trump Administration. I really think Sarah Huckabee Sanders deserves a hip hop dance number, with the Washington press corps as the chorus. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.
You might well be an excellent writer, but each genre has particular methods and techniques, and mystery writing does, too. So, let’s start with some simple tips.
First, though, I’m going to assume that you’ve been studying how to write by taking classes, going to workshops and generally trying to educate yourself about writing’s art and craft. Preparation is the critical first step. Learning how to write is the most important thing you must do, and it takes constant practice to be good.
For instance, while at a cocktail party, I overheard a conversation between a writer and a surgeon. The sawbones said, “Oh, so you’re a writer. I’ll be retiring soon and am seriously considering writing as a second career.” The writer replied, “My how interesting! It’s funny you should mention that because, when I retire, I was considering becoming a surgeon.”
Moral of the story: There is no substitute for training and experience in any field. If you are dedicated, you are always writing, learning and seeking new information and ideas about your craft.
Who’s your favorite character?
Have you read lots of mystery novels? Every writer develops plots and characters differently, and reading a wide range of authors gives you ideas about how to approach your novel. If you have read many of them, pick out some that you most remember or enjoyed, then re-read them with a critical eye. If you’ve only read a few, get busy reading.
When you return to your chosen books, try to view the stories from a 1,000-foot view and see the arc of the plot, characters, and so on. Try as best you can to re-read them with a somewhat detached view and, when you find passages that excite or fascinate you, ask yourself what moves you. Take notes about them, and perhaps sticky flags and a highlighter are in order, too. This is not an invitation to copy, but learning how to build your own style.
Who do you love, or love to hate?
Next, do you have a main character or characters? As you read, notice how the authors develop and expose the facets of their characters. Often in mystery writing, they are a policeman, detective, private eye, criminal investigator, or perhaps amateur sleuth. Don’t be bound by those, though, because maybe a lack of skills or training can serve as part of your character. For instance, they could be a genius, autistic savant, son of a famous detective, a master analyst, or anything that you can weave into a plausible character.
Your main character is pivotal to your reader’s interest. Does the reader experience your story through them in first-person, or do you write in an observational style, or … ? What is their personality like? Their morals? What drives them to seek answers, take risks and make personal sacrifices?
The more questions like those you ask, the more interesting your character, and the more ways you can develop your story. Character inspirations are everywhere. Do you have particularly interesting persons in your life? Perhaps you use them as a platform from which to build your characters. How about crimes in your area, present or past? There are story and character springboards everywhere – go find them.
Okay, now we’ve scratched the surface. These first few installments are to get you thinking about preparation before you write. Go start reading and, please, include my works in your list. Go here to see them: http://www.celawrence.com
On her blog, Turadh, Ruth posted a list of my books, and she is working her way through the whole list. As an author and a human, I am honored that she’s taken such an interest in them. Thank you so much, Ruth.
Beyond my works, she has a wonderful selection of other topics. Quite the interesting blog with a variety of topics besides books. You should visit by clicking here.
I am particularly thrilled with this review of my newest murder mystery thriller, Edinburgh Twilight, by The Eloquent Page.
The site’s owner, Paul (@pablocheesecake), has been blogging since 2010 and has compiled an impressive and wide-ranging site filled with reviews on books of all kinds. It’s a delightful reader’s paradise filled with info and thoughtful reviews on a very wide variety of books. I am entirely grateful for his appreciation of the historical crime genre. As someone well familiar with Edinburgh, his insights are much appreciated. And he is absolutely correct, one should visit there if you can. It’s a fascinating and beautiful place.
(This is a synopsis, not his review.)
“As a new century approaches, Edinburgh is a city divided. The wealthy residents of New Town live in comfort, while Old Town’s cobblestone streets are clotted with criminals, prostitution, and poverty.
Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton is no stranger to Edinburgh’s darkest crimes. Scarred by the mysterious fire that killed his parents, he faces his toughest case yet when a young man is found strangled in Holyrood Park.
With little evidence aside from a strange playing card found on the body, Hamilton engages the help of his aunt, a gifted photographer, and George Pearson, a librarian with a shared interest in the criminal mind. But the body count is rising. As newspapers spin tales of the “Holyrood Strangler,” panic sets in across the city. And with each victim, the murderer is getting closer to Hamilton, the one man who dares to stop him.”
This is the first in the Ian Hamilton Mysteries, available now.
Look for the second installment, Edinburgh Dusk, releasing in January, 2018.
(Thank you, Carole, for inviting me to be a guest blogger. We were colleagues at NYU for many years and have followed one another’s writing careers. Although we write in different genres, we have much in common besides our love of teaching workshops: We are disciplined writers, we are devoted to our students and we are courageous, prolific, transgressive writers. )
Here’s the scoop on my “NOMADS TRILOGY,” a compendium of three books in one volume – short fictionalized stories which reviewers have compared to Lydia Davis. I began the series in 2000 when I was working on “Another Day in Paradise,” a book about international humanitarian relief workers. That was an intense experience as many stories were about war and natural disasters. In order to keep myself sane I began to sketch small fictionalized stories just for myself. It was all I had time to do in between travelling, interviewing and editing manuscripts. The atrocities I was witnessing, or reading about, were heart rending. As a child of refugees myself, I was drawn to the subject, and also traumatized by it. I needed release and solace. These short NOMADS stories are the result.
I showed a few to writer friends and they commented on the precision of the writing, the unusual genre I’d chosen—some were even very funny – and the experimental feel of the work. Even after “Another Day in Paradise” was published, I continued writing these short stories as an exploration and a writing practice. Titles began to accumulate in my journal. Before long I had enough pieces for the first volume. Two more followed, and now I have published them all together.
All three books were launched as “theatrical evenings” at the Cornelia Street Café in Manhattan by actors taking turns on a small stage reading a selection of stories. I look forward to another performance event soon to celebrate the publication of “NOMADS TRILOGY.” Carole, I hope you will be there! It will be wonderful to see you, as ever.
As for me, how can I not admire Carole Bugge? That is a rhetorical question. Thank you again for your interest in my work, your professional companionship, and your inspiration and imagination.
Judy Penz Sheluk, a great author in her own right, posted a very nice synopsis of Edinburgh Twilight. See it here —
New Release Mondays: Edinburgh Twilight by Carole Lawrence