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


June Interviews

6/02 Terrie Moran, Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond

6/09 Connie Berry, The Art of Betrayal

6/16 Kathleen Kalb, A Final Finale or A Fatal First Night

6/23 Jackie Layton, Bag of Bones: A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery

6/30 Mary Keliikoa, Denied


Saturday WWK Bloggers

6/12 Jennifer J. Chow

6/26 Kait Carson


Guest Blogs

6/05 Samantha Downing

6/19 Lynn Johanson













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E. B. Davis's "The Pearl Necklace" will appear in the new SinC Guppy anthology The Fish That Got Away to be released in July by Wildside Press. The anthology was edited by Linda Rodriguez. It will be released on June 21st.


Paula Gail Benson's monologue "Beloved Husband," from the perspective of Norton Baskin the second husband of Marjorie Kinan Rawlings (who wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek), appears in the Red Penguin Collection's An Empty Stage (released March 28, 2021).


Martha Reed's "Death by GPS" will appear in the Spring 2021 issue of Suspense Magazine, which will be released in the second week of April. Congratulations, Martha!


Susan Van Kirk has a new audiobook, A Death at Tippitt Pond, that will be released this month. Marry in Haste will be released in May by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, as will Death Takes No Bribes in September. Congratulations, Susan.


Congratulations to Martha Reed. Her short story, "The Honor Thief" was chosen for the 2021 Bouchercon Anthology, This Time For Sure. Hank Phillippi Ryan will edit the volume, which will be released in August at the time of the convention.


Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Killer Weeds," appears in the January 20 edition of Texas Gardener's Seeds: From Our Garden to Yours. Congratulations, Margaret, who, if you follow Facebook know, is a superb gardener herself!


Congratulations to Paula Gail Benson whose "Reputation or Soul" has been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.


KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!


Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!

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Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Chicken or the Egg: Writing From the Inside Out by Jean Rabe



Which comes first … the method of demise, or the victim?

How he died … what killed him … motivates me. Who, what, when, where, and why are obvious necessary elements, but it’s the How that sits at the heart for me.

I often write mysteries from the inside out, picking the method of demise and then spiraling outward with the plot. I establish the method first, then the victim, before building the story around that deceased character. It’s usually initiated by some tidbit I saw in the news.

For example, a few years ago I read about a pacemaker that could be hacked. Patients would use landlines to call in and have their implants checked by wirelessly connecting them to a hospital’s internet. During such a call, a savvy hacker in Bluetooth range could slip in and modify the pacemakers in a potentially fatal way. Some prominent individuals, among them Vice President Dick Cheney, had the wireless feature of their pacemaker disabled to protect against this.

So my victim would die by a hacked pacemaker. And it would be difficult to detect, almost impossible. My victim had to be someone who needed a pacemaker, so I created a feisty and interesting nonagenarian who on the surface had no enemies.

Then the villain. Who would be low enough to hack a pacemaker? And clever and skilled enough? Why would they do such a truly rotten thing? And why kill this particular nonagenarian?
From method to victim to killer to motive I grew my story, and then seeded it with a wealth of other characters and happenings. That happened in one of my earlier Piper Blackwell novels. I’ve just released the fourth in the series, The Dead of Jerusalem Ridge, and I plotted it from the inside out, too, though I dealt with two murders in this case. One was straightforward with a bullet, the other was rather…well, I won’t go into that as it would give away the story.

Maybe it’s a backwards approach. I’ve written forty-plus novels, most of them fantasy and science fiction, and while they dealt with death—sometimes in the thousands—they weren’t specifically about murder. I drifted to murder mysteries a few years ago and have decided this is the genre I’ll stay with. Fits me like a comfortable old shoe. My backwards-inside-out method suits me, too.

There’s no one correct way to write a mystery…to write anything for that matter. You pick the way that works best for you and run with it. Me? For whatever reason I’ve become fascinated with unusual methods of demise. I have a file on my computer stuffed with all manner of possible methods to kill characters. This morning I added a piece on the Asian Giant Hornet, the two-inch-plus beastie called the Murder Hornet that has made its way to the United States. In Japan, these hornets kill about fifty people a year, most of them to anaphylactic reactions. However, a colony of the hornets can sting with enough toxicity to take down a one hundred and fifty pound animal … or person.

Death by Murder Hornet is on my radar. So is dry drowning. My folder is filled with unfortunate
possibilities. “Creative Killing,” I’ve labeled it.

I think the “how” of a death is central to the plot because it helps define both the villain and the victim. How someone does away with another individual tells a great deal about that killer, about the deviousness, cruelty, affluence, motivation, physical capability, age, sex, and perhaps culture.

I started my writing career as a news reporter for various papers in Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana, and later as a news bureau chief. I covered plenty of accidents, disasters, and murders. Too many murders; I learned how truly awful people can be to each other. Following the cases from the discovery of a body up through the trial was an education and a glimpse into the dark parts of a human heart. Even back in my reporter days, the “how” of a death was a crucial component in determining why someone committed murder. It was all sadly fascinating.

I much prefer my fictional murder mysteries to the real thing. I can always let the good guys win and can always lock up the villains. And I can plot it all from the inside out.

Hmmmm? I think I hear Murder Hornets buzzing.

Jean Rabe is the author of forty-some novels and more than one hundred short stories, and she’s edited a few dozen anthologies and more magazine issues than she cares to remember. This summer she was presented the Faust Award and named a Grandmaster by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers for her body of work. She won the Illinois Author Project 2019 Award for her novel The Bone Shroud. And she’s been nominated for a Silver Falchion Award this month for her Piper Blackwell novel, The Dead of Summer. When she isn’t writing or editing, she delights in tossing tennis balls for her cadre of dogs. She lives in a tiny town surrounded by railroad tracks. To learn more about the USA Today bestselling author and her work, please visit her website at www.jeanrabe.com.

7 comments:

Annette said...

Thanks for joining us today, Jean!

A file of death called "Creative Killing"??? I love it! I am so stealing that idea.

And I never thought of it as writing from the inside out, but I do much the same thing.

Jim Jackson said...

As with much of my writing career, I am a hybrid writer when it comes to death-defining process. Sometimes I start with the method and other times who the killer is defines the method of killing.

I do fess us to a folder similar to your "Creative Killing" although mine is unlabeled.

~ Jim

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I have a similar "how to kill" file with lurid details about plant poisonings and more mundane events like suffocation by dry ice.

I usually start with a visual, flesh out the main character, and determine who the victim is.

Susan said...

What an intriguing way to design your plots. I, too, keep a file like yours. Thank you, for stopping by!

KM Rockwood said...

Fascinating insight into your planning methods. It gives me a new perspective on murders and murder victims in fiction.

Kait said...

Welcome, Jean! No matter how you do it, as a fan of your books, I can say it works.

I, too, keep a how to file. A bit macabre, but it works for me. How about the woman who was strangled with a shiatsu neck massager? It turned out to be an accident, but the method is kicking around in my file.

jeanrabe said...

Thank you so much for your comments. And it was awesome you let me have a spot on your website. I've been coming back and back and back to check everything out. What a great place to visit.