Are We There Yet?

This weeks seems like it’s been going on forever. I can’t wait to get back to my regular schedule next week. And in a completely unrelated note: why do people buy vowels on Wheel of Fortune? I’ve never understood this strategy. I bet these are the same people who buy stuff they don’t need just because it’s on sale.

I still haven’t written any prose this new year, but the other day I did do some freewriting and came up with two big answers to two big questions of my plot. One of them I really like and should be good to go, the other will take a bit more development. I really like this process for getting a handle on my story. I’ll read through what I’ve got and then generate a list of major questions, most of which I have no answer for and assume I’ll never be able to figure out. But then I stare at the page for a while, and then start writing about the questions using a chain of thought freewriting style. Without fail, I find my answers. They may not always be the right answers and more often than not it takes a couple tries to get one I like, but that’s how it happens.

On a broader scale though, I’ve been evaluating what seems to be the biggest problems with my plotting and that comes down to one thing: motives. I know that seems simple coming from a crime writer, but I have a hard time with motives. I’m a pretty easy going guy so I can’t imagine too many scenerios in which I’d resort to the sorts of acts my characters resort to. That’s why the one phrase I kept repeating over and over again while I was freewriting was “what does this person care about the most.”

A while back on one of the discussion boards, Laura Lippman was talking about one of the reasons she liked Irish crime fiction so much. She said Irish society still has a sense of shame. In America even the most vile deeds can make someone a celebrity so what do people have to kill about?

So how do you find your motives? And what process do you have for getting to the core of your story?

4 thoughts on “Are We There Yet?

  1. I ran across a quote from Earl S. Gardner that helps me with plotting and understanding movtives.

    “Plot from the murder’s point of view. Write from the detective’s point of view.”


  2. To me, this is the central question of crime fiction. It’s especially tricky when the characters involved aren’t professional criminals.

    And that is a great quote, plot from the murderer’s POV – which will most often be really personal, rather than some great, grand scheme of things view.

    I find this true of most things – even the big events in history, always recorded as some kind of great political move, but more often than not it’s just personal stuff, people who really, really just don’t like each other.

    My favourite season of The Wire is the one with the dockworkers and it all starts because the cops and the dockworkers each give a stained glass window to the church. Nice and personal.

    The Irish may still have shame, but America still has ambition – all kinds of crimes there.

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