Fear in Writing: May 2011

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Witty Title

It's a Mystery

Mystery Writing is Murder

Killer Hobbies

Killer Characters

Murder is Everywhere

You all are a clever bunch.  These are witty names for interesting blogs that all revolve around one thing: death.  That's right, you smarty writers!  Using your wits to name your blogs is just the beginning with you.  Click over to each of these aptly titled sites for bunches and bunches of posts

Nothing crazy cool to say today.  Just wanted to point out the wit behind the titles.

Have a good Tuesday!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fill the Silence

Last night, I finished The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth by Francis Wilson.  Blame it on the times or the strange magnetism of William Wordsworth, but the life of Dorothy was one of complete loss of self.  She was a woman devoted to journaling, to writing, to observing nature...and yet everything she did was for the benefit of her brother.

Sometimes a character's personality is lost in the strength of other characters.  But this can be their characterization.  Their complete loss of self can be seen as devotion to others or shyness or mental instability or secrets in hiding.  All were certainly attributed to Dorothy Wordsworth in her time.

How many quiet people do you know who are completely innocent, sweet human beings?  Many, most likely.

But in mystery writing, this sweet silence can be twisted into something else entirely.  Embrace the silence in your characters.  Fill it with something larger than dialogue: mystery.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Writing that lasts

"Mrs. Price Ridley wears what, I believe, are known as 'Hats for Matrons'...They perch easily on a superstructure of hair and are somewhat overweighted with large bows of ribbon."
~The Murder at the Vicarage, Chap. 13, Agatha Christie

I read this passage last night and it just struck me as hilarious!  "A superstructure of hair!"  What an image!  And I can see it so clearly...Even in this age when hats aren't common, I can still picture the kind of woman Christie is describing, and the kind of hat she means.

Writing a description that makes a reader react decade after decade is no easy task.  We all know Christie is the Mistress of Mystery, but there are many authors gifted in the way of the pen.  I encourage you to share any phrases or passages that strike you when you're reading.  We can only learn from the descriptions that stay with us.

Read any lately?

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Thu-wumpa.  Thu-wumpa.  Thu-wumpa.
Thu-wumpa.  Thu-wumpa.  Thu-wumpa..
Rat-a-tat-tat.  Rat-a-tat-tat.
Thu-wumpa.  Thu-wumpa.  Thu-wumpa.
Thu-wumpa.  Thu-wumpa.  Thu-wumpa...

Any guesses?

It's an MRI machine.  That's right, I spent my Tuesday morning inside one of those, and all I could think during the procedure was how I would describe the sounds I was hearing.

Sound is such a strong sense, yet so often ignored in literature.  It's not surprising.  It's hard to find the right words to describe sound--especially without sounding silly.  But it's a real sense that can build real atmosphere.

I wasn't scared in the MRI machine, but I could see how the sounds could be used to create fear.  I was certainly surrounded by the sound.  With my eyes closed, it's really all I was aware of.

Do you concentrate on sound--or the lack thereof--in your writing?

Also...the MRI was for a possible herniated disc in my neck.  We'll see after my second MRI next week if that's what's going on.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Leopard Likes Its Spots

Do you ever feel it's too much?  The blood?  The murder weapons?  The victims?

Tuesday I had a migraine. I took medicine and slept. I slept for hours. I slept so deeply I didn't move. I also dreamed. I dreamt long, horrible, murder-laced dreams. I dreamt in full-length movies, three-act plays, beginning-middle-and-end books. I saw killings and chased murderers. I saw affairs (even participated in one) and devastation.

I woke in a confused whorl of sweat, fear, and images and I knew my sleep cinema was connected to the murder mysteries I had been reading. I knew the children involved were escaped thoughts from Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 and the social conflicts spillover from Agatha Christie's Peril at End House. But how could I stop these dark scenarios from invading my dreams? I read mysteries and thrillers before bed. That’s just what I do.

What about you? Do you ever substitute a self-help book for your usual murder mystery? Do you occasionally refresh your mental state with something lighter? Maybe regret a bit the direction in which your interests lie?

I'll move past this. The imagery and feelings will fade. I won’t keep the lights on when I sleep or worry what I’ll find behind my eyelids when they close. After all, I may not have read more of Smith last night, but I did devour more Christie.  How could I not? Call me a leopard; that’s what I do.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Agatha, take 2

Mystery writers are usually interesting people themselves.  As a follow-up to yesterday's brief post on Dame Agatha, I bring you a fascinating breakdown of her very personal mystery: her disappearance.

(FYI--this was supposed to post Friday, and the one that posted earlier (Morbid Stuff) was supposed to post after the one that will now post on Saturday, but Blogger was down. It also deleted titles and pics I had stored in unposted articles.  Ick, Blogger, ick!  Sorry for the confusion!!!!)

Morbid stuff

Another follow-up post...
To continue in the inappropriate and disturbing vein, check out these sites and crazy issues.

1. Lizzie Borden' home is a bed and breakfast!  Go on, book a vacation.  Stay where a young girl's parents were killed with multiple hatchet blows.  In the morning, "enjoy a hot breakfast reminiscent of the food the Borden’s ate on that fateful Thursday in 1892" (site).  And don't go home empty-handed!  Get your very own Lizzie Borden Head Knocker (bobble-head doll) or brick dust from the Borden home.

2.  The Mütter  Museum, College of Physicians, Philadelphia.  We aren't supposed to stare or question when we see someone with a physical deformity.  (In truth, we should treat them like a so-called "normal" person (what is that, anywa?) but not pretend the deformity isn't there.)  But do we need an entire museum showcasing medical specimens from conjoined twins, the brain of a murderer, and full skeletons of giants and dwarves.  Go ahead, click and look.  That's why it's there now, isn't it?

3.  Bog People--bodies of murder victims thousands of years old.  This one actually has archaeological and historical value.  Were they sacrifices?  Murder victims?  Gallows bodies?

4.  Cemetary Statues--creepy ones.  This one is harmless because the images were put there to be seen.  They are memories of someone.  And what that says about those "someones"...well, I don't know.  Go see for yourself.

5.  Another fascinating one in a morbid fashion: hearses over time.  How did Elvis get to the cemetary?  What beautiful wheels used in 1900!  Ronald Reagan's was (surprise!) conservative.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dame Christie Returns

So into Dame Christie right now!  I picked up a couple of my father's 1970s prints--Evil Under the Sun and Dead Man's Folly--while in Nashville, and plowed through them.  Of course, I'd read Christie before.  Many, many stories in high school and several plays as well.  But this revival of the Queen of Suspense is exciting!

Do you have a favorite you return to occasionally?  Does your vigor for that author's work surprise you with its vitality?

Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie story?  There are so many, I know!  Right now I'm reading Peril at End House--a new one for me.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ode to My Blog

How do I return?  How do I jump back in and type a post that will grab readers?  How do I  feel at home on my blog again?  Where is it written that time away means mind away?

A day didn't pass that I didn't think of you, My Blog.  In the midst of child-rearing and wedding-prepping, an image of you would reach out to me, flash in my mind and call to me.  I missed your perfect header, your intriguing Literary History banner, your links and images, your bevy of posts past.

Oh, how I long to be lost in your Dashboard...pouring my thoughts and knowledge into post after post!  The comments!  The readership!  The friends!  The magic of the Internet!

I've missed you, Blog.  I've...

Hi, all.  It's been a while.