Yesterday's comic, Non Sequitur, by Wiley Miller caught my attention. I'm not sure you can see enough of it here, but if you visit the link, you should be able to read it more clearly. And why did it strike a chord? Well, after reaching the 76K word mark in my manuscript, I've finally discovered who the bad guy is.
Now, not knowing the bad guy isn't quite the same as not knowing the ending. I'm sure Author-Girl in the strip knew that Wolf-Girl would escape and survive, but the question was "How?" Likewise, when writing a romance, you know the hero and heroine will have their Happily Ever After, and when writing a mystery, you know someone will solve the crime. It's getting there that's the challenge.
In mystery fiction, readers seem to demand that they've at least met the bad guy before the end of the book. Is that the case in real life crime solving? I'm not so sure. After all, a detective will follow leads based on the evidence. A lead might fizzle, eliminating a suspect, in which case he'll dig deeper and move on. I can accept that he might find a lead by interviewing person A, which leads him to person B. If he discovers person B is indeed his bad guy, then he stops looking. (Which reminds me of that childhood riddle: why is it when you look for something, you always find it in the last place you look?) So, in a typical case, it's quite possible that the cop never saw or considered the suspect until he'd eliminated a long string of dead ends. Is that fair in fiction? I don't know. In true-crime, perhaps, but if a reader is trying to solve a puzzle, I think they want all the pieces on the table.
I was concerned that I might have to go back and add a character to be my bad guy, since I was so close to having to wrap up the story. Didn't seem fair to introduce him in chapter 26 for the first time. Realistic, maybe, but who said anything about fiction being real?
So, although I knew what the bad guy had done, and that he'd be caught, I really didn't know who he was. The good side of that? I'd left the possibilities open for a number of characters to be the bad guy, so when the one I thought might have done it turned out to be a red herring, I'd already laid clues so (I hope) the reader might have reason to suspect him as well. In going through the broad strokes of the manuscript, I did find the culprit. Not only that, I'd already given a fair number of scenes where he showed up. It's now a matter of tweaking his back story, and solidifying his motives. It doesn't look like I'll have to add much to what's already on the page. I think these kinds of 'surprises' are what makes writing fun. And, to me, more natural, because I haven't been consciously trying to plant and obscure clues, which I think would end up being red flags waving in the reader's face.
On the real-life front: We've lowered the asking price of our house, per our Realtor's suggestion. He's now getting a few clicks on his "For Showing Instructions" link. About 1 in 3 of these seems to be coming to see the house. (Based on a sample size of 3). I don't mind those who request instructions, but I do mind those who then follow them by calling to set up an appointment and then don't show up. Or call.
Friday, the hubster and I went to the mall to have lunch and shop for shoes for me (HIS suggestion. Frankly, I'm more of a barefoot person). We found a few to his liking. I predict a broken ankle within a month. The store had to order them, so I don't have them in hand (on foot?) yet. And as far as taking them on the cruise goes – I don't think so. Hard enough to walk on those stilts on a substrate that doesn't move. But he likes me tall.
Anyway, when we got back, our credit card weighted down with our purchases, we found no card from the Realtor, and unless they've mastered the art of levitation, so they didn't leave footprints on the carpets I'd so carefully vacuumed as we left, they didn't show up. And no phone call to reschedule or apologize. At least Saturday's Realtor did call twice to update his schedule. Number three hasn't called for an appointment at all.
Tomorrow, my guest is author Karla Brandenburg, who's talking about what keeps a writer writing.