Monday, May 4, 2009

Where Am I? by Morgan Mandel


In a good mystery, it's hard to tell which road the author is leading you down. You think you've figured it out, but then the plot suddenly curves in a different direction. Sometimes you don't know where you are at all.

It's not easy for an author to do this. It involves not jumping at the first solution that comes to mind, but instead delving deeper, going for the fifth or sixth. Just make sure whichever one you choose makes sense or the reader will feel cheated. You may need to go back and plant clues to back up your choice. It's not enough to make sense, you also need to make the solution not too obvious or it won't really be a mystery. You've got to keep them guessing.
Can you tell where this photo is from? Let me know your guess. You can see if you're right tomorrow when I post the answer on my daily blog, http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/ .
Or, if you don't have a clue, instead maybe you could share the name of a mystery where you were surprised by the author. Or, maybe you could share ways you've surprised readers yourself when writing your books. Please share.


15 comments:

John Klawitter said...

The picture is taken accidentally while the author is fleeing a dark experience in the mountains. You will notice the small sign on the left...she was staying at the Truk Mountain Ski Resort in Montana when the evil befell her. She is still badly shaken, hence the shot is out of focus. There is nothing of evil in the shot, as photography is not able to capture the darkness she thinks she sees. No matter how fast she travels, it is always there, just behind her. She will go home, scramble some eggs and feed her cat, but things will not be the same, for she has brought her unwanted guest home with her.

John Klawitter said...

No, John, you're an idiot. The picture was taken on that road leading east out of the Rockies into Calgary. Morgan was attending the annual Late Spring Ladies Tea & Mystery Roundup up at Lake St. George when a horrible event took place, the river ice collapsing just as Filbert & Gertrude were daring to walk across, only the lone witness, an old fellow well up in his nips, claimed there was an explosive disruption from below, almost as if a claymore mine had been discharged at the appropriate moment. Upon examining the scene, Morgan stumbled across a detonating device disguised as an ordinary cell phone but for an oddly shaped amplification antennae not unlike the ones she'd studied on a recent trip to the British Museum in Tuckersgate.

John Klawitter said...

Nonsense, it's Australia's snowy mountains in the late winter, which would be in September, actually, or perhaps October. Morgan has been traveling cross country after picking up several hundred pounds of raw black opal materials from the Lightning Ridge area near Alice Springs. She arrived at the desolate area alone, and no one saw her leave, and yet she has been plagued by bad luck since picking up the load of semi-precious gems, which are known to be bearers of ill fate. Still, she does have enemies in the jewelry business, people who would do her great harm rather than allow her unique designs to continue to command the industry prestige and pricing. And then, too, over the last few days she's seen a distant Piper Cub trailing overhead...or is that just her imagination? Huh, just me being silly, she said to herself, just bare seconds before she heard a sharp crack as a bullet hole scarred the windscreen in front of her.

John Klawitter said...

The above comments are all rubbish. Morgan has actually been kidnapped by aliens. She is in a crypto-vault, on her way to Acturia Minor, The picture you see has been generated by Acturian scientists who realize that the millennium-long journey will leave her quite mad unless she is given stories to occupy her mind. This is a story about a mystery that happened in Scotland. It is meticulously accurate in every detail, and Morgan is entirely captivated with the goings-on, until she notices the small sign that says "Truk" Unfortunately, the Acturians have not mastered the art of spelling. The word, of course, should have been "Truck". This starts Morgan on a mind-spinning descent back to reality. She remembers lying in bed and being lifted by anti-grav mechanisms well past our current ability to understand into the belly of the transporter-ship, and being briefed by the Acturians before her cryo began. There's actually nothing worse than knowing you're in the cryonic casket and nothing to do for a millennium, so by the time she gets to Acturia Minor, she does little but blither about this and that. Well, howl, actually. This is terrible because the Acturians wanted her to handle an advanced writing class. But, nothing to be done for it, so they send her back.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'll go along with alien abduction!

L. Diane Wolfe
www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com
www.spunkonastick.net
www.thecircleoffriends.net

Morgan Mandel said...

How did John know all those things about me? I think he was in on the plot.

Those adventures are in the past. The question remains where am I in this photo?

Morgan

F. M. Meredith, author said...

You guys are all funny. I have no idea where you are--except on the road. When I take a photo like that while on the road I can assure you there's be a highway full of cars. So my guess is you're on your way to someplace where not a lot of people go--or at least not this time of year.

Marilyn

John Klawitter said...

Actually, Morgan, you're in the driver's seat...but on closer inspection, I see blood spatters on the upholstery. So, either you are badly in need of help (for splatters to reach that far to the rear of the vehicle, or you have cleverly removed the body, but still need some 409 and a bit of scrubbing to eliminate the last earthly remains of Peter M. Furchard, the one enemy you have left on this mortal coil...no, upon reflection, actually you must have two...since some fiendish mind has planted Peter's body in your car, not realizing you would spot it and dump it in that snowy pass behind you.

Ann Victor said...

Uhhh, let me guess. Heading east towards Timbuktu on the Great North Road?

(Can you tell I'm useless at mysteries?)

Jean Henry Mead said...

Actually, I think John whisked you away. Where to? Ask him.

BronzeWord said...

wow John tops all!!! cannot compare. but have lived in Vermont long enough to know this is North Country of U.S. Probably like Wyoming or one of the Dakotas.
Jo Ann Hernandez
http://bronzeword.wordpress.com

Marvin D. Wilson said...

LMAO! John's comments were worth the visit to this blog alone! Ha!

Cool post, too, Morgan. :)

Christina said...

I'm thinking Colorado or Wyoming. Looks like the Rockies to me!

~C'Fix

John Klawitter said...

In my opinion, one of the best openings in the history of modern genre horror/mystery has to be Peter Straub's Ghost Story. The author cleverly begins with the action that takes place just before the climax of the book. My guess is that his agent (or best friend) told him this was necessary as the story starts too slowly, which it does, a handful of wealthy old farts in a New England town gathering around a warm fire as winter moves in.

Literary device or no, the trick works beautifully:

Straub's story opens with a frayed young man driving his somewhat battered car south from New England to Florida. He seemingly has kidnapped a 14 year old girl who sits quietly handcuffed beside him, apparently resigned to her fate. The girl loves country western music, and we are filled with dread as we realize the driver fully intends to use the combat knife next to him...but our dread slowly shifts as we realize the young fellow driving is actually terrified, and the young girl is neither innocent nor under his control...or a little girl...or even human...actually, she's toying with him and fostering a deep, abiding hatred that only needs the slightest opportunity and she will crush him into dust.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Carolyn, I know there are Sister in Crime chapters everywhere but I'll be speaking at the June conference in Pasadena. Will you be there? If so, please stop me to say hi! Or better, come to my seminar. (-:

Best,
Carolyn Howard-Johnson