I haven’t put in my negative two cents worth lately, not that I don’t think Five Scribes is an awesome blog, but because as we said when we started it… the writing comes first. I’ve learned something during the time I’ve taken to complete my sixth book. I’ve discovered that writing a mystery is an awful lot like solving a math problem.
I wonder if we did a comparison of you math-minded people out there if you would agree with me. I wonder what kind of writer Anthony P. would have turned out to be if he’d chosen to be one? Who’s Anthony you ask? He was the whiz kid in my class. Everyone with ordinary intelligence wanted to be this kid. Anthony P. stood on his head and recited the Gettysburg Address for extra credit. Trust me on this one; he didn't need extra credit.
Remember speed drills? The mathematical drills your teacher used to stimulate your gray matter? She (or he) lined you up at the chalk board and gave you a math problem and said go. You and another kid in the class did your best to complete the problem before the other one. I guarantee no one wanted to go up against Anthony. He was that bright…that quick-witted…and darn nice so you couldn't hate him ;)
For some reason, as I finish my romantic mystery, I’m constantly reminded of math class. For instance, in Algebra each equation is balanced by a variable, which is an unknown number represented by any letter in the alphabet (usually x). The value of each variable, of course, must remain the same in each problem.
Same with my mystery: Each clue and red herring must be presented so as not to point to the killer, but at the same time you don't want to confuse your reader. I have a synopsis which explains what happens from point A to point B, I have equal measures of suspense and romance, I have tension on every page. I slow the scenes on some pages, increase the pace in the rest. But the more complicated the storyline gets, I feel like I’m back in math class reaching for scratch paper.
Seriously. Check out my plotting board. I know what’s supposed to happen from beginning to end, from chapter to chapter. The colors? Each represents a summation of a chapter and every characters’ point of view.
As the owner of an analytical mind, my classmate could skip necessary steps to reach the correct answer, while I had to check and recheck my math.
So here’s my roundabout question: If you’re a writer, and you’re good at math, do you find it easier to breeze through a book? How about you who aren’t so good at the subject? I’m truly curious about my theory. Cuz if I’m correct I need to find my old classmate and sit him down at a keyboard. And I need to do a better job of balancing my checkbook. Happy writing!
P.S. to this post. Several have made a comment about the plotting board. Here's a link that will tell you more: http://pprw.org/plottingboards.html