Luck is a four-letter word. Luck happens.
One of my good friends has the best luck of any person I’ve ever known. You know the type? It never rains at any picnic she attends. I love her dearly, but how boring is that?
Not that I’m complaining about all the soggy sandwiches I’ve wolfed down in my rained-out picnics. In fact, the more things that go wrong, the luckier I feel. Because I’m a writer.
And when-things-go-wrong makes interesting fiction.
We readers want to read about interesting events and their consequences, things that will take us out of our ordinary, dull, day-to-day lives. We want to rubberneck, and how much better when the disaster isn’t even real! We want to know what happens when you miss an important meeting that will make or break your career. Where does that unexplained detour take you and how does it change an ordinary person’s life? Horrors, what if you stumble across a dead body?? What would you do?
That’s what happens to one of the characters I write about. On the surface, Nell Letterly seems to have a lot going for her: she’s a loving mom and daughter and lives in fun-city Boulder, Colorado. She’s just trying to raise her daughter, herd her martial arts students, and keep everyone safe in a crazy world. But she’s a bit down on her luck, which I hope makes her a more interesting character. Her husband has disappeared, her house is one step ahead of foreclosure, her teenage daughter thinks she’s stupid, and her job is anything but secure.
When we like our characters, it’s extra hard to throw rocks at them when they’re down. But we have to get over that. We can’t allow ourselves to treat our characters too nicely. It’s for the sake of story.
If your story threatens to become dull, here’s a family-tested recipe to spice things up:
1 lucky villain
1 or more unlucky victims
an unusual method
Mix lightly, until crime begins to form.
Add interesting setting (i.e., no sunny picnics).
Drop in characters, one at a time.
Stir until blended and sleuth’s theories granulate.
Fold in gently: motivation and means.
Knead until new theory emerges.
Bake until done.
Justice is served and villain’s luck has run out.
Sue Star writes mysteries about families in chaos. Murder in the Dojo is the first novel of her black belt mystery series. The second of the series, Murder with Altitude, will be released from D.M. Kreg Publishing later this year. She has also collected several short mystery stories in Trophy Hunting and Organized Death. Sue Star is the mystery pen name for Rebecca Bates, who also writes science fiction, fantasy, and women’s fiction with a touch of magical realism. In real life, she has taught young adults, and in her leisure time, she enjoys hiking, skiing, martial arts, and hanging out with her family.
Find out more about her writing here:
Contact Sue at email@example.com.