Sunday, April 30, 2017

Malice Domestic Conversations

When writers get together you can count on stories -- the ones they are writing and their perspectives on books, life, and whatever waltzes through their minds. This week's Malice Domestic Conference in Bethesda, MD was no exception.

On the topic of humor in murder mysteries -- a.k.a. how do you get a laugh out of death? Nancy West notes while death is never funny, how people act afterwards can be. Think funeral scenes. I can never read a Janet Evanovich book without anticipating Grandma Mazur's antics to try to pry into a closed casket.

Since two of my series are set in farm country, in Iowa and Illinois, I was especially interested in the panel on Rural Murder. Stephanie Jayne Evans put things in perspective with a Sherlock Holmes quote "Most evil can be done privately when there is no one around to watch." Also on that panel was Shannon Baker, who has a particularly alert friend. She is always on the lookout for places that Shannon could hide a body.

I got a kick out of Ray Wenck on the Unusual Cops panel. "I am quirky. Just ask any of the voices in my head."

Three new vocabulary words came from the panel "Extra! Extra! Newshouds and Murder." The mix of former print and video reporters even noted varied spellings.
Lede (print) and lead (television): opening paragraph of a story
Nut: core of the story.
Kicker or reefer: end of the piece. Lots of comments on the reefer term, of course.


Molly MacRae talks conflict.
The panel "Oh, to be in Britain" had a great discussion of conflict as the key to drama. Among the ways Molly MacRae builds it are: have people operate at cross purposes, create misperceptions, and have a character ask one question and the respondent answer a a different one.

Leslie Meier had examples of causes of conflict in small towns: tension between new ways and entrenched operations, simmering resentment, and having characters act differently than their role in town would lead people to expect.

As in several panels, an audience member asked whether authors sometimes base a character on a real person, or how they hide the fact if they do so. G.M. Maillet had a great response. She uses the Mr. Potato Head School of Writing. A character trait may come from one person, coloring from another, and so on.

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2 comments:

  1. Elaine, what a great number of hints. Thanks for reporting on Malice.

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  2. Jan - How kind of you to say so. It was a good conference and I met a number of folks I had only known online.

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