Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How I solved The Single Staircase

[Ed. - This post will give away the ending to my first novella, The Single Staircase. It is a mystery. If you know the ending, you won't enjoy it much. You've been warned.]

My whole life, I've loved detectives. Golden Age sleuths like Hercule Poirot. Gritty police procedurals like Last Seen Wearing. I ate them up. And I always had a particular affinity for locked room mysteries, which are the thorniest puzzles of all. They ask you not just to figure out who the crook is, but how a crime could even have been committed.

Years ago, I dreamed up a plot for my own locked room mystery. A couple puts a baby to bed in an unreachable third-floor nursery. They leave the room but stay within sight of the door. When they walk back in the room a couple hours later, the baby is gone.

I wanted so much to write this mystery. But I couldn't solve it. So for years, it marinated in the way, way back of my brain.

[Ed. - Seriously, stop reading here if you haven't read the novella yet.]

Then they let Casey Anthony off.

I'd avoided stories about Caylee Anthony's death. But the night her mom walked out of the courtroom, I spent hours reading about the case online.

I can't say I am a better person for learning all I learned. And I don't claim any opinion about the validity of the verdict. But the next morning, I solved The Single Staircase. Everything fell into place. What would you do if you found out your spouse was planning to murder your baby? Probably something pretty desperate.

I hate to think of The Single Staircase or its sequel, WDYG, as "ripped from the headlines." But they are. They let me put context around news I can't deal with.

Writing them, however, is an exercise in reduction. The focus isn't the characters, and there's just enough description to set a mood for each scene. Owl and Raccoon show up on page one and the reader stays with them every step of the way, learning the facts the same time they do. Both novellas are solely about the search for justice, which is something the real world rarely delivers.

1 comment:

Diana Light said...

Thanks for the insight!! Now when's the next one coming?!?!