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Use your inner Agatha Christie: Editor's Notes #198
November 15, 2015
Hello,

A good book always keeps you asking questions, and makes you keep turning pages so you can find out the answers.
--Rick Riordan


In this issue:

1. Use your inner Agatha Christie
2. Tickled my funnybone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1. Use your inner Agatha Christie
With about two billion copies of her books in print, Agatha Christie is out-published in English only by the Bible and Shakespeare, illustrating how eager readers are to solve problems when they read.

Regardless of the genre you write, you do well to use your inner Agatha Christie. Although the tips that follow apply primarily to those who want to write mysteries, no matter what you write, your text may be stronger if you use some of the techniques of the mystery writer to reveal what the reader needs to know.

If you haven't yet read a novel by this prolific writer, begin by correcting this lack in your literary life. Christie's novels are short and easy to read. I suggest you read at least three. Watch for the following characteristics and then apply them where they will help your own writing.

What is at stake? Agatha Christie wrote murder mysteries, but there are many other kinds of problems that need solutions. Young children may be afraid of what could be lurking in the janitor's closet at the school. A romance novel could have a character with a mysterious past. Most nonfiction involves taking the reader from relative ignorance to greater understanding about a topic.

Lead your reader to the solution step by step. Be clear in your own mind what those steps are. Good mysteries never depend on last-minute information. At least a hint of the important facts must be evident early on. Other information must unfold in a rational manner.

Of course, in a true mystery, you do want to plant a few red herrings, things that look like clues, but that are not. Readers expect these in mysteries. In nonfiction, you can show the reader what false trails experts followed before revealing the latest understanding with its supporting facts. When planting red herrings, sprinkle them throughout the story and plan how they will be revealed as red herrings.

Take out everything you do not need. In a mystery, this means keeping description to a bare minimum so you keep the focus on the plot. A flawed character makes the story more interesting, and it's always a plus if your writing shows something about the human condition, so feel free to develop characters even in a mystery. But in any writing, your revisions will probably involve a great deal of cutting. When I edit, I can regularly remove 10 to 20 percent of the text I receive.

There are scores of books devoted to the writing of Agatha Christie, and if you write mysteries, you may want to read more about what critics think make her books so successful. No matter what you write, your writing will be better for studying her work.

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2.Tickled my funnybone
From a church bulletin:
Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation. 

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3. Interesting Web site
Follow the free online workshop here to write your own mystery.
http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/mystery/index.htm

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4. Writing prompt
Think of a time that you were accused of something you did not do. Choose a point of view (your accuser, yourself, a third party) and write the story of the mystery. What clues will you sprinkle throughout? How does the story change when you write it from someone else's point of view? Can you prove your innocence, or will you be forever falsely accused?

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