Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Rain, Not In A Forest

with 3 comments

It’s fairly early on Monday morning, and I’m having a squiffy day.

Squiffy days almost always start with work going badly, and today, yes, work went badly.

One of the things I have  never been able to figure out about writing mysteries is  how to figure out if the solution is going to be obvious to the reader.

Since the solution is obvious to me, I can’t stop  myself from thinking that the solution must be obvious to everybody else, too. 

That way, of course, lies madness, but I’ve never been able to talk myself out of thinking  it.

Lawrence Block once said–famously, by now–that he never knew who the killer was before he started writing.  He figured if he didn’t know, the reader couldn’t know either.

I’ve never been able to write that way, so what I do instead is sit around and brood and change things and brood some more.  All this brooding was a lot more satisfying in the days when I had actual paper to crumple up and throw around the room.

In t he meantime, I’m being squiffy about something else, which doesn’t help.

Tropical Storm Andrea made landfall in Florida on, I think, Friday, and ever since the local news has been full of screaming headlines about how the entire state (and my county in particular) has been issued flood watches, flood warnings, flash flood watches, flash flood warnings.

You name it, and if it  has to do with too much water, we’ve been warned about it. 

And the weather report for every day of the last week end, and for today as well, and tomorrow,  had promised thunderstorms virtually all through the day.

The only problem is, where I live, we’ve seen almost no water at all.  There  have been no thunderstorms when  I’ve been awake to hear them.  There have been no major rainfalls. 

On at least two of the days it was supposed to rain nonstop, it’s been absolutely beautiful, perfect late spring weather, warm without being majorly hot, very sunshiney.

The kind of days people hope for when they want to  have picnics for their birthdays.

Now, I know that weather reports are often inaccurate, but they’re  not usually this inaccurate–and, in another sense, they haven’t been inaccurate at all.

Some parts of the state have, in fact,  had lots of rain and major flooding.  These were, however, largely the parts of the state that had only watches and not warnings.

And the weather report for today and tomorrow is the same–thunderstorms,  lots of water, all kinds of flood warnings.

I’ve got that feeling you get sometimes when tension  has built up until it just has to blow, and then everything calms down for a split second before the whole thing goes kaboom.

It’s the kind of day on which nothing  much gets done.

And, being Monday, it’s the kind of day on which I have a lot to do.

I suppose this ought to be interesting.

It’s even getting overcast.

Written by janeh

June 10th, 2013 at 8:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'Rain, Not In A Forest'

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  1. Pouring rain here, which is why I’m not out for a walk.
    Mysteries. Of course, as Nero Wolfe himself said, the subtle pursues the obvious in a never-ending circle, and any murderer will be obvious to some readers and a complete surprise to others. Ideally, of course, one reads the mystery, is surprised by the murderer, motive or method, but–once it is revealed–sees how it can have been no other way. That is, of course, a counsel of perfection, and please note that all novels–not just mysteries–should ideally have a surprising and inevitable ending.
    Technique. The more links in the chain of reasoning, the fewer the readers who will assemble them all correctly. Kill your victim with a Thai poison and only have one Thai suspect, and it’s obvious even to red herringhood. But a suspect who helps out in his cousin’s business (page 27) which is a restaurant (page 85) which imports ingredients directly for freshness and authenticity (page 150) is a more subtle chain. (Do please, point out that only these people had opportunity or motive, or something. I really hate mysteries I can crack because only one of our four characters can be the murderer, while in real life any of a dozen people I never met could have done it.)
    Beware of style. I loved the old Perry Mason TV mysteries, but they always had happy endings. If you focused on who–as murderer–provided the happy ending, you could generally crack a one-hour mystery in 15 minutes. You could generally crack a Murder, She Wrote by figuring the white male with the highest socio-economic status was the guilty party, though in one case he was covering for his daughter.
    Miss those two traps, and to paraphrase the old joke, you can fool most of the readers most of the time, and this is sufficient.
    Good luck


    10 Jun 13 at 8:42 am

  2. We got a little rain from Andrea. Not as much as predicted, but that’s a good thing. Forecasts generally seem to be much more accurate thant they used to be, but they’re not always right. I think the forecasters are far more likely than they used to be to get terribly dramatic in their presentation. We’re sitting out it the North Atlantic, not far from the meeting of the Labrador Current and the Gulf Stream. We ALWAYS get fog, rain, high winds, blizzards, the ‘tail-end’ of hurricanes in the fall, which every few years are strong enough to do a lot of damage. We don’t really need dire warnings about proper things to do when a rainstorm or blizzard is forecast. They’re normal. Wait for the really once-in-a-hundred-years storms for the warnings, and even then they don’t have to be dire because we’re used to bad weather.

    I often think that if I know or can do something, it’s so easy everyone else knows or can do the same thing. Mostly that’s true; sometimes it isn’t. Perhaps you knowing who the killer is in advance is the same sort of thing – it seems obvious to you, but that’s because you know it already.


    10 Jun 13 at 8:52 am

  3. Weather forecasters are never criticised for forecasting doom and gloom. It’s when they fail to forecast doom and gloom that they catch it.


    10 Jun 13 at 11:56 am

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