Dorothy Cannell: I had a wonderful Christmas and do not intend to dim the glow with New Year resolutions. Self-improvement is not tantalizing. It’s a slog that shouldn’t be turned into a holiday event, one that doesn’t even get the benefit of a Hallmark card. Still, I do like to make lists. So I’ll produce one of do’s and ‘don’ts for female fictional beings in mystery novels. In particular for those poor dears that the vicious author has destined to be put in danger and expected to get out of it with only a mild concussion and an alluring bandage. This is a cut throat business. And you’ve become the prey of a nasty minded person who for some reason has taken against you in a big way. Really, it’s just too sad! The attractive male detective can’t be relied upon to believe your harrowing tale of the faceless stalker. He’s abstracted by his poetry writing, his passion for Bach, his failed attempts to reconcile with his ex-wife, and his resentment of being shuffled off to a small town.
- Don’t trust anyone, including the detective.Your curiously strong likeness to the ex-wife may have unleashed a torment that has led to his wishing he’d entered a monastery. Thus his nightly wanderings in a dark robe with the cowl drawn around his face.
- Realize that if you are to have a love interest it won’t be with someone named Cecil or Claude, those are invariably dull, portly and balding types with stuffy jobs. So don’t waste too much dialogue time with them beyond the possible slipped clue moments. It isn’t fair, but that’s the way it is. You may end up clasped in the arms of a Bill or Mike, though more likely it will be an Aiden or Jonathan. But never a Cecil or a Claude.
- Acknowledge that your employer, the wealthy tycoon, is not the darkly brooding type because he has chronic indigestion.Consider the possibility that he came by his millions after the demise of his partner in a boating accident – on a very calm lake. Then find a reason to believe him innocent of having arranged the death.
- At some point after you’ve had a few near misses with The Grim Reaper you need to start pondering what there is about you that has so severely ticked someone off. What do you know, or not know, about him or her that that could make murder a handy way out. Or maybe there’s something you don’t know about yourself. Perhaps you’re the real heir to the tycoon’s millions. Wouldn’t that be nice, if you could live to splash out?
- If you agree to meet someone in response to a muffled voice phone call on the promise you won’t tell anyone where you are going, you’ll need your reasoning to be credible. You thought you recognized the voice, believed it was a cry for help from someone you cared about. You’ll also have to admit you acted stupidly, otherwise the reader may hope the author does let you get murdered.
- Accept the possibility that you could be for the chopper. Unless you’re on the page first person you never can tell. Of course if you have an undercover police officer delving into the tycoon’s past and present, you could be in line for a promotion – to series main character.
That’s it for from me for 2018.