Writer Problem No. 153: Not Knowing How the Story Will End

My snowmobile story has turned into a bit of a mystery! I certainly didn’t see that coming. One of these days, I would like to write an honest-to-God, structured mystery novel. I’ve had that element in some of my short stories, and it crops up in the Talbot Trilogy, but not on purpose. Just — things that have to be discovered, or uncovered, in the course of the main conflict being pursued and resolved.

As a fan of Sherlock Holmes mysteries (read my brother’s copy of Adventures of Sherlock Holmes when I was 12), and the Harry Potter books, Nancy Drew when I was a kid, and Castle today, I keep feeling like that’s a genre I could really sink my teeth into. But I keep stumbling into the element by accident. I think, to properly write a mystery, you have to have that intention from the beginning, don’t you?

So that means doing research. Teaching myself with trial and error. Interviewing those in the know, like my dad, for instance, who also loves mysteries, and whose father was an insurance investigator. Taking copious amounts of notes and keeping them organized.

When I was working on the trilogy, I often wished that I had a bulletin board on which I could post bits and pieces of detail, a visual timeline that I could see all at once rather than having to flip through pages on my screen or in my notebook, and printed out plot details that I’d already written. I thought I was a little bit nuts, but then I saw the fictional character Castle doing it on his eponymous show, and I know that the writers of that program based his activities off of those of an actual mystery writer, SOOO . . . I’m not that crazy after all! There really could be a method to my madness! If only my house was a little bit bigger, and had slightly more wall space. Like a nice downtown loft apartment in New York City . . .

Anyway, now that I’ve got this great bit of inspiration going, suddenly the skeleton under the floor, the silver lighter that my protagonist has, and some of the troubles in his family are starting to make sense. I am tempted to go back into the exposition and rising action to clarify some of these things in the backstory, using flashbacks and reminisces as devices. But first I have to find an answer to the biggest burning question of all: just who is the skeleton under the floor, and who is the old man with the gun?!?

Oh, my brain . . . Why can’t you just give me answers? It’s so funny when I mention that I don’t know what’s going to happen next, or that I can’t explain whether a location is really haunted in one of my stories, or how a mystery is going to be solved — the students I talk to about these things kind of tilt their eyes and look at me like I’ve completely lost it. “How can you not know?” they ask me. “You’re the writer!”

Yeah. This is part of the reason why I honestly believe that some stories are simply out there, floating in the ether, waiting for a conduit in the form of the teller. They reveal themselves when the time is right. So, Ether, I’m waiting. I’m listening. Fingers are typing. WHO IS THE SKELETON? WHAT’S WITH THE OLD MAN?!?

I bet Jack London never had problems like this.

Book Review: The Aristotelian


Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will find The Aristotelian a worthy successor / prequel to the Sherlock Holmes Mysteries. I was immediately charmed by the language, the vocabulary, the patterns of both narrative and dialogue, and the portrayals of the young detective and his elder brother. The mystery, too, is inspired and fully matches the style of such classics as The Red Headed League or The Adventure of the Speckled Band (two of my favourites). I fully intend to gift this story to my dad, who has long been a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and enjoy it again in future, as well as further works by the inestimable Steve Poling.

Buy Link:


Strange lights in the sky…not fire, but what?

A few nights ago, a massive solar storm treated much of the northern hemisphere to a spectacular light show. I didn’t know how far spread the phenomenon was until I started seeing friends report it on Facebook. I ran into my backyard to see whether anything was visible from the middle of town, and indeed, I was able to see a smudge of colour across the sky. Not a lot, but enough to make me happy.

And then one of my friends reported seeing a meteor in the sky. Way cool! She told me the next day that as she and her fiancé watched, it disappeared over the northwest horizon, and then there was a massive glow over the tree-line, as though an explosion had taken place somewhere.

Nothing reported in the news.

AND THEN…another friend, hours to the north-west, reported (the next day) seeing an orb in the sky during the aurora. And it wasn’t just him — it was the whole population of Attiwapiskat.

Confirmation has come in from others who were outside and away from bright town lights, including hunters, that there was something in the sky, not necessarily like a meteor. It was all that his students could talk about in the classroom the next day, and a woman called into Morning North on the CBC that day to report it, but was told it was likely a meteor.

Yet nothing has been reported in the news that I have found.

I think there is a big difference between a moving light clearly recognizable as a chunk of space debris streaking to its fiery end, and a recognizable shape like an orb. It’s a mystery and it’s bugging me! I want to know whether a meteor made impact, or exploded in the lower atmosphere, but I’m also very curious about the other potential sighting… So, if anyone has anything, please post it!

And keep an eye on the sky… 😉