If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

WWK welcomes Welcome Wednesday author interview guests--Edith Maxwell (writing as Maddie Day) 11/4, Elizabeth Duncan 11/11, and J. A. Hennrickus (writing as Julianne Holmes) 11/25, to our blog. Polly Iyer is filling in for us on 11/18 due to a delayed publication. Thanks, Polly! Our guest bloggers this month are--Sam Bohrman (11/7) and Pat Gulley (11/14) in addition to our steadfast Saturday bloggers, Sam Morton (11/21), and Kait Carson (11/28).

Kait's blog will be our last in 2015. Warren Bull will introduce the holiday season on 11/29. Gloria Alden, KM Rockwood, Shari Randall, E. B. Davis, and Paula Gail Benson will present holiday shorts among the holidays. Please look at our 2015 Guest Calendar for December dates. We will resume blogging on 1/3/16.

Maria Barbo at HarperCollins's Katherine Tegen Books has bought a debut YA fantasy by Sarah Henning, tentatively titled Heartless and pitched as the never-before-told origin story of the sea witch from Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" told in the vein of Wicked – from the villainess's point of view. Publication is set for fall 2017; Rachel Ekstrom at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency did the deal for world rights. Congratulations, Sarah! --Publishers Weekly 11/9/15

Gloria Alden released the sixth book in her Catherine Jewell mystery series. Carnations for Cornelia is available at Amazon. Congratulations, Gloria.

Congratulations to WWK's Carla Damron. Carla's book, The Stone Necklace, will be released on February 2, 2016. Pat Conroy served as Carla's editor on this project. For further information, look on Facebook or Amazon.

Warren Bull's "When Stinking Aliens Take Over Your Planet" appears in the new Whortleberry Press anthology, Strange Mysteries 6. "The Interview" was chosen to appear in the Flash Bang Mysteries anthology. The anthologies are available on Amazon in paper or Kindle formats.

"A Matter of Honor" by Robert Dugoni and Paula Gail Benson will be published in the first Killer Nashville anthology, KILLER NASHVILLE NOIR: COLD BLOODED, released on October 27, 2015.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Devil’s in the Details

Mystery writers pride themselves on fairness: the reader has the same clues as the characters in the story, and part of the fun of reading a mystery is figuring out who done it. The writer buries clues in the most mundane places, tries to tie us in knots with misdirection from MacGuffins and other red herrings and wows us with a final twist after we are sure we know the answer.

Great stuff, and it’s all ruined when Mr. Smith on page 46 has brown hair and on page 235 is a blond—and it isn’t a disguise or caused by a recent trip to the beauty salon. Such an error kills the author’s credibility. Because mystery readers are looking for every little clue, they, more than other genre or literary readers, will spot these kinds of mistakes.

What is a writer to do? Rely on the copy editor to catch that stuff?

I suggest writers keep track of these details using spreadsheets.

Authors often create detailed “biographies” for their major characters. Go online and you can find templates for “learning” about your character. These serve a purpose, but not what I am talking about. I’m referring to keeping track of the little things, like color of hair, or a personality quirk that is (or should be) just hers. For that I have a spreadsheet I call “Fictional Creations.”

This file contains a separate worksheet for characters, companies and geographical locations I have created. (I also keep track of books and music referenced in my writing.) Major characters may have a separate worksheet with lots more information as part of the documentation I keep for each novel, but for minor characters the entry tells me anything distinctive I’ve written about the character’s appearance (physical or behavioral). Here are the columns I use for people:

Name (I include nicknames in parenthesis)
Quicky Description (Something to remind me who the person is)
Titles (A separate column for each novel, so I can easily collect my cast of characters for a given piece with a sort; titles for short stories)
Additional Information (Descriptions used)

For Companies I have columns for:

Company Name
Location/What they do (although for fictional companies, I try to make clear from the name what their business is)
Titles – again with separate columns for novels, and a listing for short stories

I started this with my first novel and have continued chugging along, but maybe there are better ways. I’m listening for ideas…

~ Jim


Julie Godfrey Miller said...


I like the spreadsheet idea. I started my WIP with PAGES of information about my characters. The problem is that it's PAGES and has become difficult to keep track of. I think my next task is to move all the pertinent information into one place in a spreadsheet. Thanks.

James Montgomery Jackson said...


Glad to help. Writing is not a zero sum game where hoarding what we learn benefits us at the expense of others. We're all in this together!