Fictional Framework

I will continue on with what I learned when Michael M. Alvarez spoke on Nov. 6th, at the Joyner/Green Valley.

First, Last Clichés:

Red Herring— A false or deliberately misleading trail; a diversionary tactic. Dates from 1800s. Comes from the use of strong-smelling smoked herrings as a lure to train hunting dogs to follow a scent. They also could throw the dogs off the scent, and it was this characteristic that was transferred to the metaphoric use of red herring.  See W. F. Butler (Life of Napier, 1890).

The Real McCoy—The genuine article. Probably originated in late 19th cent. America. A young boxer named Norman Selby changed his name to Kid McCoy and began a successful career in the ring. For years he averaged a fight a month, winning most by knockouts. Hoping to capitalize on his success, other boxers adopted the name Kid McCoy, but on March 24, 1899, the real Kid, in a now legendary bout, finished off Joe Choynski in the 20th round. The next day’s headlines in the San Francisco Examiner proclaimed, “Now you’ve seen the real McCoy,” and the description stuck. This explanation is somewhat verifiable, but there are several other theories to its origin. One is a Scotch whiskey made by the MacKay company was called the real Mackay or McCoy.

Smell a rat—Suspect something is wrong. A very old term alludes to a cat sniffing out a rat. John Skelton used it in The Image of Hypocrisy (c. 1550): “If they smell a rat, they grisely chide and chant.”

So, how many did you find?

 Michael M. Alvarez talked about Fictional Framework.  So I will tell you the whole kit and caboodle about what this is.

Fictional Framework means that all that happens in a story, happens for a reason, and it all has to make sense.

The elements in every mystery have to have:

1.      Interesting and Believable Characters

2.      Create an interesting and believable killer (you must balance 1 and 2)

3.      Need a good cast of suspects—3 for a novella, 5-6 or more suspects in a novel

4.      Victim’s death must not be trivial—need a good reason why victim was killed

5.      Setting – (regional, business type, etc.) something out of the ordinary is good-example is Tony Hillerman

6.      Interesting Plot and Subplots –Robert B. Parker can do in 200-210 pages what other authors do in 300-400 pages.

7.      Clues and red herrings

8.      Have to have a logical, satisfying conclusion—avoid bringing together too quickly

Logical ending needs to have a motive, means, opportunity. If you fail on these, then you have a novel that is dead in the water.

The Play Fair Doctrine – a writer gives all information and clues for the reader to be able to figure everything out. If he doesn’t, the reader will be fighting mad.

 Hope you’ve learned something like I did, and

Keep Writing!


Mystery vs. Thriller/Suspense Novels

Went to listen to a great speaker on Mysteries vs. Thriller/Suspense Novels

First, let’s do Last Clichés:

Par for the Course—Just about typical or average. Believe it or not, this term comes from golf.
Par means the number of strokes set as a standard for a particular hole or for the entire course, a score not attained by the majority of players. This term was used to other activities in the 1920s. However, often used with a mildly derogatory or deprecatory connotation. i.e. “He’s nearly half an hour late; that’s just about par for the course.” Up to par means “to meet a standard or norm,” while below par = “less than satisfactory,” by extension in poor spirits or health. See C>E> Montague (1867-1928) Fiery Particles.

Alive and Kicking – Very much alert and alive; still surviving. Originated with fishmongers who described their wares, meaning that they were extremely fresh. Mid-19th cent. coined a cliché. Recent version = alive and well, originated as a denial to a false report of someone’s death. French singer Jacques Brel, boosted this expression with his show and recording which was translated as Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Popular in the 1970s.

Own Up To—Confess, admit to something. Dates from mid-1800s. This expression uses own in the sense of possessing responsibility for something. See the Boston Journal (May, 23, 1890).

So, how many did you find?

I went to my writers’ club speakers presentation. Michael M. Alvarez told us some history starting back in 1841 when Edgar Alan Poe wrote the firs detective mystery. Then in 1868 Wilkie Collins wrote Moonstone.

Mysteries have puzzles, and are like putting pieces together. The murder mystery is the most interesting which includes red herrings, false alibis, climatic scenes. Of course we all know in 1887 Doyles’ Sherlock Holmes series, and in 1920s the Agatha Christie mysteries had very engaging characters and interesting stories. After that, the publishers began putting books into categories or genres.

The real McCoy mystery novel is called a series of interviews.

So what’s the difference between a mystery and thriller or suspense novel?

A mystery—the reader does not know who the killer is until the end, but the reader should be able to smell a rat.

A thriller (which has elements of suspense) sometimes lets the reader know who the killer is at the beginning and reader has to figure out the how to stop the killer or catch the killer. Thrillers are faster paced (Mary Higgins Clark was good at this) and definition of suspense is anticipation of what happens next. Every ten pages something happens.

A mystery can do the same with short chapters, which gives the illusion of moving fast.

In the first 15 pages, the killer should be introduced—not necessarily by name.

Next blog will continue with what I learned about the Fictional Framework.

Keep Writing!