By Brian Mullen
Writing can be difficult. This, of course, goes without saying, which brings us to:
LESSONS LEARNED #1: You probably shouldn’t start a paragraph by saying something that goes without saying.
It is amateur mistakes like these…wait, ‘mistakes’ is plural. It are mistakes…no, they are mistakes…like…it is…
LESSONS LEARNED #2: Don’t be afraid to try and ‘distract’ the reader from previous sentences by tossing in a “lessons learned” quip when necessary.
So, today, I will try and help some of you so-called ‘novice’ writers by sharing some mistakes I have made in the course of learning the writing craft. For example, tell me, if you can, what is wrong with this opening mystery paragraph.
As the bullet lodged into his chest, just millimeters from his heart, Michael Johnson had two simultaneous thoughts: first, that he wouldn’t live to see his vow of vengeance fulfilled, and, second, that the author really should have picked a different character from whose point of view to tell this story.
Did you find the mistake? No, it wasn’t the use of the metric system measurement (that sort of thing goes over BIG in Europe and a few other countries). No other guesses? Well, then I’ll tell you. It was, in fact, that the main character died in the first sentence.
LESSONS LEARNED #3: Never kill your Point of View character in the beginning of your novel.
This places the author in an awkward position of logically not being able to continue the story. It’s okay, mind you, to kill off the main character at the END of the novel, but at the beginning might be a tad too early. Ditto with the middle of the story. Try and keep the character alive until the very, very end, if possible.
Let’s try again. What’s the fundamental flaw in this title?
How Michael Johnson was Killed by Frank Mahoney: A Whodunit
This one is subtle so don’t feel bad if you didn’t catch it.
LESSONS LEARNED #4: Don’t reveal the name of the murderer of a whodunit in the title of the book.
Apparently, it is customary in a whodunit NOT to reveal who the murderer is until way at the end of the book. This is so readers have a chance to solve the case themselves. Thus identifying the murder IN THE TITLE is frowned upon.
Well, I hope you all have learned a thing or two from my mistakes. I was please to share my experiences with all of you. Now, I must return to work on my manuscript. It’s a mystery with a surprising plot twist at the end. I can’t tell you too much about it yet except the working title which is, “The Murder Victim Who Faked His Own Death.” I suspect it’ll be a best seller!