Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Craft of False Clues

It's relatively easy for me to think of who the bad guy will be in a new book. Also doable are knowing how they commit the crime and how they hide their involvement. The big challenge for me is planting false clues so the reader cannot figure out the evil-doer until they are unmasked.

When Trouble on the Doorstep was released in March a number of readers commented that they hadn't spotted the antagonist until the very end.  I had to chuckle, because while there were a couple of 'bad guys' in the book, I switched some things after I finished the first draft. In other words, I didn't know myself which one was going to be the preeminent evil-doer.

That might be a method to use, but it wouldn't be one to recommend. It does make a book more interesting to write.

As I've been writing Behind the Walls (sixth in the Jolie Gentil series) I've done more reading than I usually do when writing. Reading is the best way for me to learn. After dabbling with several authors I had not read, I found that M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series was a great example of a detective who makes a number of wrong suppositions as he solves a crime. In other words, there are some good false clues and the Scottish detective follows them.  The books are also a great example of weaving the setting into the plots.

Since my sleuth is not a professional, her methods have to be different. She has no right to poke into a crime and has very limited access to what the police uncover. That's not to say she doesn't stick her nose where it doesn't belong. It's her specialty. However, the crime has to touch her in some way or it's not realistic for her to try to solve it.

So now that I've finished the first draft of Behind the Walls I'm inserting more false leads in various places. It's a little like a multiple choice test, with more options for the answers. In a few weeks I'll know if readers are as surprised at the ending for this book as they were for the last one.  My fingers are crossed.
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If you'd like to see how Behind the Walls turned out, click here.

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