Conversations: 10/21/2016


Tightens The Threads


Just yesterday I heard a word I hadn’t heard or seen used for years. The word is Brinkmanship. My definition for it (from the creative writing perspective) is “to bring Readers to the BRINK of solving the mystery, then strategically pulling them away from that answer only to maneuver them onto another path.” When writers hone this skill they produce wonderful adventures that not only challenge our logical thinking abilities but satisfy the soul. Much like the tapestry illustration shown here, the various color hues (characters) and textures (plot/angles) intrigue us and bring us joy.


Agatha Christie is one of the best and most read novelists. She instinctively knew how to weave the threads of Intrigue, Suspense and Mystery into puzzle-patterns creating beautiful whodunits that tantalize us, frustrate us and bring us to the brink of giving up before they allow us to discover the truth. Here are a few of the techniques she used.

Clues: A spot of blue ink is found under the desk. Ah! A clue! Clues provide information to one or more characters and to the Reader. These include tangible objects the blue ink pen found on the suspect’s desk or fingerprints, or a letter clenched in the victim’s hand. And, as in real life, other objects might be collected but have nothing to do with the mystery which become false clues leading our characters (and readers) to wrong conclusions—for a short time.

Red Herrings: the technique that uses an event or statement to overtly mislead characters (and readers). However, this does allow everyone to deduce (logically) whether or not this piece of information has relevance to the story. These red herrings do keep Readers from figuring out what’s really going on sooner than outlined.

The Suspects: Because I enjoy the complexities of well-developed characters this is my favorite part of any novel genre but especially the Mystery. From the tailor to the butler, the undercover police officer to the priest, the chef to the hobo—almost every character in the book could have a reason to be suspected even though slight.

Disguises can also add elements of intrigue and suspense to both characters and the settings (atmosphere/environment) in which we place them. This is a camouflage of either people or places that gives our Readers pause to consider another possible (logical) course in the storyline and keeps those pages turning

Successful authors who employ these techniques—no matter what the genre—often use opening sentences that incorporate several of points. Here is the example of a first sentence in a novel that does just that.

“When the car stopped rolling, Parker kicked out the windshield and crawled through onto the wrinkled hood, Glock first.” Richard Stark, Backflash

Immediately the Reader is presented with several clues, a character/suspect with enough strength to crawl out of a wrecked car with a gun in his hand. When writing skills are honed to the point of creating opening sentences like this one, publishing success is right around the corner. ⚓︎


ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

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