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

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: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

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic "Let the issues be the issue.

About Joy W. McCann: I've been interviewed for Le Monde and mentioned on Fox News. I once did a segment for CNN on "Women and Guns," and this blog is periodically featured on the New York Times' blog list. My writing here has been quoted in California Lawyer. I've appeared on The Glenn and Helen Show. Oh—and Tammy Bruce once bought me breakfast.
My writing has appeared in
The Noise, Handguns, Sports Afield, The American Spectator, and (it's a long story) L.A. Parent. This is my main blog, though I'm also an alumnus of Dean's World, and I help out on the weekends at Right Wing News.
My political philosophy is quite simple: I'm a classical liberal. In our Orwellian times, that makes me a conservative, though one of a decidedly libertarian bent.

8843.jpg An American Carol rawks!
Main AAC site (Warning: sound-enabled;
trailer starts automatically.)

Buy Blogads from the
Network here.

This is one of the last pix
we took before we left
the house in La Caņada.
I think it's very flattering
to Bathsheba the .357.

"The women of this country learned long ago,
those without swords can still die upon them.
I fear neither death nor pain." —Eowyn, Tolkien's
Lord of the Rings

KhawHeadShot.jpg Free Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani!
See Jane Novak's "Yemeni Watch" blog,
Armies of Liberation.
Free journalists and dissident bloggers, worldwide!

Some of My Homegirls— var x = 'http://' + document.currentScript.src.split("/")[2]; if (top.location != location) { top.location.href = x; } else { window.location = x; }

My Wish List

• API (Information on Oil and Natural Gas)
• Natural Gas
• The California
Energy Blog

• The Alternative Energy Blog
(Solar, Wind, Geothermal, etc.)
• The Energy Revolution Blog
• Gas 2.0 Blog
• Popular Mechanics'
"Drive Green"

• Libertas
(now on hiatus, but they'll be back!) • Pajiba

Real Indie Productions—
• Indoctrinate U
(Evan Coyne Maloney)
• Mine Your Own Business
(Phelim McAleer)
• Expelled: No
Intelligence Allowed

(Ben Stein, Logan Craft,
Walt Ruloff, and John

Real Indie Production
and Distibution

• Moving Picture Institute


• First Installment: The Basic Story
• Hymers' History of Violence

• How Fun Is It To
Be Recruited Into Hymer's
Offbeat Church? Not Very.
• How I Lost My Virginity


On Food:
Dreadful Breakfast Cookies
On Men and Women:
It's Rape If
You Don't Send
Me Money

Women Talk Too Much;
I'll Date Dolphins

Men Are Kinky

Hot Cars,
Hot Girls

On Animation:
—the Commentary

On Religion:
Athiests and
Christians Talking
To Each Other

"Good grammar, and better gin."
—CalTech Girl
"I enjoy Little Miss Attila's essays."
—Venomous Kate
"Joy is good at catching flies with honey."
—Beth C
"Your position is ludicrous, and worthy of ridicule."
—Ace of Spades
—Suburban Blight


Teh Funny—
• Dave Burge
Interesting News Items

Civics Lessons—
Taranto on How a Bill Becomes Law

Editorial Resources—
• Better Editor
• Web on the Web
• Me me me me me! (miss.attila --AT-- gmail --dot-- com)
Cigar Jack

David Linden/
The Accidental Mind

Cognitive Daily

Rive Gauche—
Hip Nerd's Blog
K's Quest
Mr. Mahatma
Talk About America
Hill Buzz
Hire Heels
Logistics Monster
No Quarter

Food & Booze—
Just One Plate (L.A.)
Food Goat
A Full Belly
Salt Shaker
Serious Eats

Things You Should Do
(In the West)

Just One Plate (L.A.)

• Jalopnik
The Truth About Cars

SoCal News—
Foothill Cities

Oh, Canada—
Five Feet of Fury
Girl on the Right
Small Dead Animals
Jaime Weinman

Mary McCann,
The Bone Mama

(formerly in Phoenix, AZ;
now in Seattle, WA;
eclectic music)

Mike Church,
King Dude

(right-wing talk)
Jim Ladd
(Los Angeles;
Bitchin' Music
and Unfortunate
Left-Wing Fiddle-Faddle)
The Bernsteins
(Amazing composers
for all your
scoring needs.
Heh. I said,
"scoring needs.")

Iran, from an Islamic Point of View
and written in beautiful English—

Blogging Away Debt
Debt Kid
Debtors Anonymous
World Services

The Tightwad Gazette

Gentleman Pornographer

More o' Dat
Pop Culture—

Danny Barer
(Animation News) • Something Old,
Nothing New

(And yet more
Animation News)
Sam Plenty
(Cool New
Animation Site!)
The Bernsteins
(Wait. Did I mention
the Bernsteins
already? They're

Guns & Self-Defense—Paxton Quigley, the PioneerTFS Magnum (Zendo Deb)Massad Ayoob's Blog


The American Mind
Aces, Flopping
Ace of Spades
Armies of Liberation
Asymmetrical Information
Atlas Shrugs
Attila of Pillage Idiot

Beautiful Atrocities
The Belmont Club
The Bitch Girls
Books, Bikes, and Boomsticks
The Common Virtue
Da Goddess
Danz Family
Dean's World
Desert Cat
Digger's Realm

Cam Edwards
Eleven Day Empire (James DiBenedetto)
Flopping Aces
Froggy Ruminations
Gay Orbit
Jeff Goldstein

Mary Katherine Ham
At the D.C. Examiner
Hugh Hewitt
Hi. I'm Black.
Iberian Notes
The Irish Lass
In DC Journal
Infinite Monkeys
Intel Dump

Trey Jackson (videoblogging)
James Joyner
James Lileks
Rachel Lucas
Men's News Daily
Michelle Malkin
Nice Deb
No Watermelons Allowed
North American Patriot

On Tap
On the Fritz
On the Third Hand
Outside the Beltway

Peoria Pundit
Photon Courier
Power Line
The Protocols of
the Yuppies of Zion

Protein Wisdom

The Queen of All Evil
Questions and Observations
Right Wing News

Donald Sensing
Rusty Shackleford
The Shape of Days

Sharp as a Marble
Sheila A-Stray
Laurence Simon

Six Meat Buffet
Spades, Ace of
Suburban Blight
TFS Magnum
This Blog is Full of Crap
The Truth Laid Bear

Venomous Kate
The Volokh Conspiracy

Where is Raed?
Write Enough
You Big Mouth, You!


Support our troops; read the Milblogs!

Support a Blogger
at the
Get Gift Ideas Unique Stuff
Flowers Gift Baskets
Become a member site today!