Writing a Mystery

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Iím doing a post as a reply to Stevenís kind post in response to my announcement that I am working on a mystery novel. The bookís lead will be a ďsemi-proĒ, a forensic accountant, self-employed and nearing retirement, who is also a life-long Colorado rancher. A forensic accountant is one who works at uncovering fraud and other examples of white collar crime. The character is drawn from my own experience Ė early in my career I worked some assignments as a ďfraud auditor,Ē the rest is just made up.

I donít know that I feel very badly about my having to be so focused in my writing, I am surprised. I donít know why it should be so, but it is. This is especially true when I try to write, or even read, any poetry. I find it completely distracting, enjoyable, but still it really blocks any work I try to do in fiction. Steven says that you canít help but write, and I think that is likely true of most of us who have attempted a blog, but I know I canít match the kind of volume you are talking about. I think I must be unusual in this regard. Iíve thought about it a bit, and Iíve come to think this is due to my being an accountant. I want to do things in an orderly, structured way. Iím not sure, but Iím coming to accept it as a sign of Godís will.

What I do feel highly self-conscious about is writing a mystery. I have always regarded the mystery novel as an inferior breed in the world of fiction and literature. I think of mysteries as little more than distractions, entertainments, rather than serious literature. This is, of course, not always true, famous and very good authors have written mystery books. If you study what mystery writers say about the genre, they tend to trace their origin back to Dostoyevsky, and include Poe and Chesterton and others too numerous to mention.

The one good thing that I keep consoling myself is that, in a mystery, usually, good overcomes evil, a disruption of good order is set right, and all live happily ever after. I will certainly strive to achieve that outcome. As I envision the series, the lead character is on a path to real conversion, from little real faith to something much greater. The trick is to deal with all this without hitting the reader over the head about it.

Another good thing that has come from working in fiction is that I have learned some things about people while trying to ďcreateĒ characters. They take on a life of their own and I keep discovering new things about them; this is true even for characters that I have done a lot of work on. I wonder if our Lord ever feels that way about us? It has given me an entirely new outlook on people.

I may post here, from time to time, anyway, as a ďwarm-upĒ to my more serious pursuits, it seems to help to get 300 to 500 words down on paper before getting down to the business of creating fiction. I can't promise much in terms of quality, but this may be of interest as the diary of a novel. Anyway, this post has certainly reached my 500 word limit, so perhaps itís time to get to work.

Thank you, Steven, for your comment, I appreciate your thoughts.


Dear Ron,

I look forward to your posts--particularly to updates on the progress of the novel. And, by the way, entertainment is a most valid reason to write--not everything is written for the ages, nor need it be. Your work will live or die on its own and its value will be the value you give it by the determined effort you put into it. Moreover, we need people of faith writing mysteries. I recently read the promising, if somewhat tedious beginning of a series.

If you need a commentator, I will be happy to read your work. I've taught a good many creative writers and have long been associated with a writing group. I find it helpful to get critiques--it also tends to help you keep on schedule.

If it is any consolation to you, my first novel was science fiction. As far as most people are concerned, a step below mystery in the ranks of worthwhile reading. Nevertheless, it was completed, and I was delighted with it. No one else has been, and with time I understand why; however, work continues. I'm not really a novelist, I think I'm a poet, and a relatively good one--but that only time will tell.

Post as you can, and write to me privately if you wish. I would be delighted to assist in any way I can.




I would never have suspected that you would write science fiction, but I should have known to expect the unexpected. I will certainly take you up on your offer to serve as commentator, I do not know of a writerís group here in the Springs, although there are plenty of writers here, starting with the famous Jerry Jenkins. Over the weekend I may try to get something together on my lead character; Iíd like to get your take on my idea. One of my recent writing instructors wrote science fiction, she wrote several of the Star Trek books and her writing was as good as any. I agree, good writing is good writing, I donít think the genre matters at all. Look at Ray Bradbury.

BTW, If I can return the favor, Iíd be happy to.

I agree, I think you are a poet indeed. Of course, I havenít read your fiction yet. I appreciate your recent posts on modern poetry. I recently picked up a volume of the best poems of 2004 Ė I thought it was me! Quite honestly, it was all crap.

I may write you privately over the weekend with a few more thoughts.

Thanks again Steven,

Pax et bonum

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on April 26, 2005 7:18 PM.

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