March 25, 2007

I'm Learning from the Queen Bois.

Um. Make that Queen Boyz: the cousins who wrote the original Ellery Queen series.

As I work through the list Marvelous Mike sent my of their best puzzles, the engineering side of my brain is, indeed, beginning to kick into high gear.

I realize that on my own project I may be overdoing the Real Clues: I'm only required to give the pertinent information on the real killer once or twice. After that, it's up to the reader to figure it out. If they're like me, they won't want to. (I'm reminded of what my former roommate, the mathematician, used to say: "she's too smart to figure things out that she doesn't want to know." That's a blessing/curse of human nature.)

Of course, the best puzzles are the ones in which the Main Reveal leaves the reader smacking herself on the head, exclaiming, "it was in front of me all along; why didn't I see it?"

That's what I'm aiming for. I'm terrified, however, that the maze will be too easy—that the solution will appear obvious all along, rather than in retrospect. One always runs that risk, of course, if one is playing by the rules. The main rule is the reader gets a shot at solving the puzzle himself/herself.

My mother informs me helpfully that she doesn't really mind if she's reading a mystery and she figures it out. That isn't the level I want to play at, though.

The workshop meets again this coming Thursday night: I need to flesh out my final conflict and take it in. Enough of the procrastination. I have to send the ship out—my draft—and see if it can stay afloat. If not, I'm sure I have a great career ahead of my as a Starbucks barista or something. Or I can stick with my glamorous proofreading endeavors.

There is a moment in any high-wire act wherein one has to take a deep breath, let go of the handle, and reach out for something that may or may not be there.

I am at that point.

Posted by Attila Girl at March 25, 2007 11:05 PM | TrackBack
Comments

While you ponder, LMA, a little something to set the mood---

The Customer Is Always Right

The Salesman--

She shivers in the wind like the last leaf on a dying tree

I let her hear my footsteps

She only goes stiff for a moment

Care for a smoke?

C:Sure. I'll take one

C:Are you as bored by that crowd as I am?

I didn't come here for the party

I came here for you

I've watched you for days

You're everything a man could ever want

It's just not your face

Your... figure

Or your voice

It's your eyes

All the things I see in your eyes

C:What is it you see in my eyes?

I see a crazy calm

You're sick of running

You're ready to face what you have to face

But you don't want to face it alone

C:No

C:I don't want to face it alone

The wind rises electric

She's soft and warm and almost weightless

Her perfume is sweet promise that brings tears to my eyes

I tell her that everything will be alright

That I'll save her from whatever she's scared of and take her far far away

I tell her... I love her

The silencer makes a whisper of the gunshot

I hold her close until she's gone

I'll never know what she's running from

I'll cash her check in the morning

by Frank Miller

Posted by: Darrell at March 26, 2007 09:17 AM


Wow. Very cool.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 26, 2007 09:47 AM


Take a page from Jo Rowling. One of the most important clues in the first book appears, on first reading, as a throw-away line that merely decorates the narrative.

Posted by: John at March 26, 2007 04:26 PM


You've had a comment from John in Limbo for a few days and I decided to let it out.

How about some more Frank Miller. . .

Marv. . .

I was always good
at jigsaw puzzles.

Back in school I
had this buddy, name
of Chuck. He was
retarded. He'd watch
me put the pieces
together and I loved
that guy because he
was the only person I
ever met who was dumb
enough to think I was
a genius.

And the situation I got
right now, it's just
one more jigsaw puzzle.
Problem is I'm
damn short on pieces.

I've been framed for
murder and the cops
are-in on it. But the real
enemy, the son of a
bitch who killed the
angel lying next to me,
he's out there
somewhere, out of
sight, the big missing
piece that'll give me the
how and the why and a
face and a name and a
soul to send screaming
into hell.

The good news is that
the killer isn't sitting
back and waiting for
the cops to polish me
off. "There were some
men who came looking
for you," Mom said. "They
weren't police."

So all I go to do is
send the bastard an
invitation. He'll come or
he'll send somebody and
either way if I don't get
dead I'm bound to wind
up with one or two more
puzzle pieces.

The Hard Goodbye

Posted by: Darrell at March 28, 2007 08:11 PM


Well, I'd be happy to be as good a storyteller as Rowlling is. It's easy for her, because she is so good at characterization that there's plenty of "local color" in her stories. That makes it easier to hide clues.

The Queen writers aren't as good, but they put in enough to camouflage their real intent. That's all it takes.

Writing a puzzle is just like doing a magic trick: it's all about misdirection.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 30, 2007 10:32 AM




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