Monday, November 11, 2013

When Good Habits Go Bad

The house is in disarray right now. We're at the in between point between the painting done, but the carpeting still to go. Things are not where they usually are.

We were able to hang the pictures and sundry items again, but even that turned confusing. The dining room digital clock, which I like to check from time to time, somehow didn't seem right. Why did I have to crane my neck? I didn't remember doing that before. Had it always been that way? Turns out the DH exchanged its spot with the picture beneath it. I want it back where it was! I'm in the habit of looking at exactly one spot to see the time, not one even a little different.

The DH, who is not the neatest guy in the world, is having even worst problems adjusting. Being a creature of habit, he despises change. After so many years, though, stuff wears out and change is inevitable.

Looking at the clock is a small habit, but we follow others as well, such as going to church at a certain time on Sunday, sitting in the same pew every week, buying our lottery tickets and gas afterward.

Others have their own habits, different than ours. Habits are comfortable. They can be good, such as remembering to brush your teeth. They can also turn bad, when used by the unscrupulous.

When writing a mystery, an author can have lots of fun playing around with characters' habits. Here are a few ways:

1. A crook cases a house, learns the habits of its occupants, such as when they leave the house for shopping or work, and robs or maybe  even lays in wait to attack.
2. A character goes out every morning to get the newspaper around the same time. The bad guy takes advantage of that habit to gain access to the home.
3. A character is in the habit of being friendly to people, and becomes too trusting, with disastrous results.
4. Here's another one - A friend of mine, along with her hubby, went to lunch with me and my DH at a buffet restaurant. I happened to glance at our table and saw her purse sitting right smack in the middle of the table, in plain view of everyone in the restaurant, also not far from the next occupied table. Coming from a small town, she was in the habit of being trusting. Fortunately, no one stole from her, but she was lucky she still had her purse and wallet for the trip home. Goes to show that small town safety habits can be very different than those in a metropolitan area. Placing a character outside of a familiar setting can prove dangerous.

Can you think of other ways to make habits work in mysteries?

Morgan Mandel


Twitter: @MorganMandel


Jean Henry Mead said...

We're also in the processo of remodeling/revamping the house, so I can certainly sympathize, Morgan. It really cuts into one's writing time.

Jean Henry Mead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

How true. We need to change our routines once in awhile.