Expect the unexpected

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I think I’ve mentioned before that I write without an outline. I’ve tried it in the past and found that I’m very constrained. Besides that, I’m lazy and I’d rather write the story rather IMG_0034than spend the time outlining the story, then doing the work all over again.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t write without some expectation of where a story will go. Generally, I write in a linear fashion from A to Z and do have a notion of where the story will go, or I’ve made some rough notes of the next few scenes.

Such is the case with my current Wolf Mallory novel, Dancing with a Dead Man. This is probably the most complex of the Wolf books I’ve written so far, picking up loose ends from the previous book, Can’t Dance Forever, and weaving them into this story which roughly involving a murder and the lost gold of the Confederacy. And of course, as in the other two books of the series, things are not always as they seem.

Given several stops and starts along the way, I’ve managed to write about half the book by this afternoon, and felt my path to the end was fairly clear. That was until these characters surprised me again and my yellow brick road suddenly turned to a morass of wet sand bogging me down.

So now, Wolf is caught in his own web of deceit and about to be exposed. And again, I have to wait for him to tell me how he’s gonna explain his way out of this one.

And to me, that’s the joy in writing. No matter how much I think I know, or how I expect things will go, there’s always that sharp turn in the road that leaves you in a breath taking moment of joy.

So, unless you’re married to an outline, play with your writing. Let it flow, and watch how the expected may turn into the unexpected.

 

John D. and me

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Talk to a Florida mystery writer, and eventually, you’ll hear the name John D. MacDonald mentJDMioned, as in paying homage to one of the genre’s greatest writers. Over the past few months, the Sarasota Herald Tribune has published a periodic featured titled “John D. and Me” in which Florida authors reminisce about the great man or his influence on their own works.

By Googling the title, you can find many of the pieces by Stephen King, Randy Wayne White, and Jeffery Deaver among others online.

You’ve probably heard of John D. MacDonald, and if not him, certainly Travis McGee. MacDonald, who lived in Sarasota for a majority of life, started his career after World War II writing for the various pulp markets and making a name for himself. In 1964, in The Deep Blue Goodbye

“The Deep Blue Goodbye,” MacDonald introduced to Travis McGee, a salvage consultant living aboard his houseboat, the Busted Flush at Slip F-18 in Bahai Mar. According to the JDM website, McGee “undertakes to recover for its rightful owner moBusted Flushney or property of which the owner has  been wrongfully deprived and has no other hope of recovering, taking half its value as his fee.” Twenty more books, each with a color in the title followed.

I honestly can’t tell you which of the McGee books I discovered way back in high school, but I was hooked. MacDonald was a masterful story-teller, sparse with his words, but giving you just enough to feel, hear, well experience, McGee’s world.  And all of those McGee books have influenced me as well, in the creation of Wolf Mallory, spinning a tale that’s believable, and even in the titles with the use of the word dancing or a variation of it.

So if you want some good beach reading this summer, I’d highly recommend MacDonald, or one of the many other Florida authors he has influenced.