Monday, December 10, 2012

How Marilyn Meredith Goes About Plotting

Marilyn and husband Hap at signing party
by Marilyn Meredith 

Because I write two series, a lot of what I need to do about plotting is already done. My main characters are all set, whatever story I’m going to write will affect them in some way.

Usually when I’m going to write a new book, I start going through my files and see if I’ve saved a news story or jotted down something from a Sisters in Crime meeting, or perhaps a story told at a mystery conference that will trigger and idea for me. What I’m looking for is some sort of interesting crime that I can build on and change that will work for a mountain community—a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery—or a beach community—a Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.

Once I’ve decided on that and how the story might go, mostly in my mind, it’s then a matter of figuring out who will be killed and why and who might have done it. (Always more than one person.) Thinking about motives and opportunity come next. To make it interesting, the key suspects should all have motives and opportunity so that the solving of the mystery is more of a puzzle for both the sleuth and the reader to figure out.

At this point I’ll be taking down notes, coming up with names for people and what they look like, who they are in the town. What relationship, if any, they might have with my ongoing characters.

Deciding on what time of year the story will take place is also important, because weather often plays an important part in the plot. (Raging Water is right after the first of the year, winter time, and a big storm with unrelenting rain plays havoc with everything that goes on in the story.)

Once I have most of these elements in place, I usually begin writing even though I may not know exactly where I’m going or how I’m going to get there. As I’m writing, more ideas pop into my head. I usually write these ideas down in a notebook so I don’t forget to incorporate them in the right places.

I also keep a simple calendar of days and keep notes on what happens on each day as the week progresses. I do this for two reasons, to make sure that all the action that happens could actually take place in that time period, and so I don’t leave out a day.

As the story progresses, I begin to see how things might work out and what will put my heroine or hero in jeopardy for that big climatic ending scene.

And that’s how I go about plotting.

Raging Water Blurb: Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation of the murder of two close friends is complicated when relentless rain turns Bear Creek into a raging river. Homes are inundated and a mud slide blocks the only road out of Bear Creek stranding many—including the murderer.

I know there are some people who like to read a series in order, but let me reassure you that every book is complete. Though the characters grow through each book, the crime is always solved. . Here is the order of the books for anyone who wants to know: Deadly Trail, Deadly Omen, Unequally Yoked, Intervention, Wing Beat, Calling the Dead, Judgment Fire, Kindred Spirits, Dispel the Mist, Invisible Path, Bears With Us, Raging Water.
Bio: Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Raging Water from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel us No Bells, the forth from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and follow her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/
Marilyn borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area. She says, "I know there are some people who like to read a series in order, but let me reassure you that every book is complete. Though the characters grow through each book, the crime is always solved. . Here is the order of the books for anyone who wants to know: Deadly Trail, Deadly Omen, Unequally Yoked, Intervention, Wing Beat, Calling the Dead, Judgment Fire, Kindred Spirits, Dispel the Mist, Invisible Path, Bears With Us, Raging Water." 

17 comments:

Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome back to Mysterious Writers, Marilyn, on this last day of the Mystery We Write Blog Tour.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Hi, Jean, so glad to be here. Am I the one who didn't know how to spell my own name? I've found typos in almost all of my posts--so I probably did this one too. Nothing like going out with a bank!

Jean Henry Mead said...

Mea culpa, Marilyn. I noticed it the moment it went up but Blogger is slow today and wouldn't allow me back in until just now.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Oh, my, I did it again. I should have said going out with a BANG. Just goes to show you I'm the queen of tpos.

Patricia Gligor said...

Marilyn,
I'm in the early stages of plotting my third novel and reading your post gave me a few ideas on how I might simplify that process. Thanks!

M.M. Gornell said...

Marilyn, what a wonderful (and informative!) look into your writing/plotting process. Your experience and openness to sharing has been a godsend to me!

Madeline

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Dear Jean fixed my name. Thank you!

Lorna Collins - said...

We've discussed this before. Still don't know how you manage two mystery series! Our one series is hard enough. However, I won't use any of the predictable plotting methods/issues such as drug dealers, etc. (I know you don't either.) That makes it harder.

Love your books.

marja said...

You make is sounds so simple, and of course it isn't. When I read your books it seems like you knew every single detail without giving it thought. By that I mean it seems so natural. Excellent post!
Marja McGraw

Dani said...

Marilyn, I loved this 1-2-3 method you've outlined for readers. Thanks for sharing your technique! Happy hols!

Marilyn Levinson said...

Marilyn,
I enjoyed reading how you go about plotting a new mystery. Do you ever find that your main characters surprise you and behave in ways you wouldn't have expected?

Evelyn Cullet said...

It was great getting to know you and more about your writing methods on this blog tour, Marilyn. I almost hate to see it end, but I'll be following your blogs in the future.

Collin Kelley said...

Enjoyed the tour!

Anne K Albert said...

In many ways, our process is the same, Marilyn. Although the timing is different.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Raging Water and look forward to the next in the series. Of course, I have to go back and do some catch-up reading first!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Thank all of you who commented, and Marilyn L, yes, my characters surprise me all the time. That's one of the fun things about writing.

Earl Staggs said...

Very interesting to see how you do it, Marilyn. And great touring with you again.

Jake said...

Always enjoy your posts & photos. Thank you for another interesting look at writing & readers.