Will it Work?

This week’s update: I am now at 55,000 words of ‘Where There’s a Will’ and the story is progressing. For the last three days I have been rereading what I have written so far, and today, I’ll be moving forward again, having checked up on myself. This is one of those mysteries with lots of detail, some of which isn’t relevant (to the mystery) but which act as red herrings, and I need to be sure that a) there aren’t too many, and b) those that are genuine clues are pointed enough to remain in the memory without overpowering it.

What I mean: When laying down a clue for the detective to pick up on later, like when laying down the foundations of what will become the smoking gun, it’s important to ensure the evidence has been presented in a plausible but not over-obvious way.

There is an old thriller writing saying which goes something like: Don’t mention a revolver unless you intend to use it. In other words, if you introduce something big, make sure there’s a reason for it. So, in ‘Where There’s a Will’, I have several incidents from the characters’ pasts which either have to be relevant to the plot generally or important to the mystery specifically. Some of these ideas pop into my head as I am writing, and thus, get added into the story. Later, I might discover that they didn’t run, or they led nowhere, and interesting as they are, and relevant though they seemed at the time, they are now just clutter and have to go.

Which is what I have been doing these past few days. Now, I am about to leap back into chapter 18, which is a little over halfway, when the mystery has just kicked up a gear. I need to devise my next cryptic clue, put in some more backstory to deepen suspicion and have my cast prepare for a storm, both meteorological and metaphoric.

Red Herring. According to Study.com, The term ”red herring” comes from an article written by a journalist in 1807. He described a likely fictional story in which he used a red herring (a smoked herring) to distract a dog from a hare. The term caught on from there.

The smoking gun. The phrase originally came from the idea that finding a very recently fired (hence smoking) gun on the person of a suspect wanted for shooting someone would in that situation be nearly unshakable proof of having committed the crime. (Wiki.)

Or, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it in ‘The Adventure of the Gloria Scott’: We rushed on into the captain’s cabin, but as we pushed open the door there was an explosion from within, and there he lay wit’ his brains smeared over the chart of the Atlantic which was pinned upon the table, while the chaplain stood with a smoking pistol in his hand at his elbow.

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