A Peek Inside the Kitchen…

Winding Road SignThere’s a TV show I no longer often watch, but in its day with me, I absolutely loved. The show’s name is/was, a variant, of “How’s it made.” When I watched faithfully, they often visited the manufacturing processes for different foods, many I knew about, or ate. With that idea in the background, I thought sharing another twisting-turn and stop on my winding-writing-road might be fun (and cathartic for me). This time, stopping at the “plotting-land” rest stop.

In my mind (and the imaginary worlds therein), characters and setting come easy—plot pieces not so easy. Not because I don’t have ideas, oh no—just the opposite. Too many pieces I want to combine—somehow. Adding to that, my taste in reading and writing is–the trickier the better. With surprises of course. While at the same time making sure, when the truth does comes out, the pieces have to all hang-together. Have to make sense—once you’re looking at the facts in the right way.

In addition, several recent blogs from authors I like/know were about the back-stories to “why” a particular novel—the who, what, where triggering the story. Those posts also got me thinking down this line too, even though they weren’t addressing my particular challenge—the specifics of plotting.

This post is also a public retraction of a private proclamation (smile). I have a very small part in producing an area newsletter, involving layout. One the very competent ladies[i] who spearheads this effort, asked me if I liked puzzles. My flippant answer was no. Duh! A puzzle of course provides the basis for most of my mystery-plotting efforts. Admittedly, for several of my books, my plots were based on simple and one-dimensional ideas, i.e.–a singular and straightforward mini-mart off I-15 combined with a dog named Joey[ii]. Or, could you kill someone with clay flying off your pottery wheel?[iii] Or simply, the beauty of a unique mountain—as in my first novel, Uncle Si’s Secret.

But over time, my writing goals have changed—expanded—one might say “Gotten out of control!” For example, here’s a peek inside the kitchen of my latest. All the images, thoughts, ideas, and accompanying action and symbolism for  Rhodes The-Caretakers. Ingredients for my latest plot:

  • puzzleclipartCreated a character (a villain) in my last Rhodes adventure that I’ve become fond of, and now want him to have a key part in my current story-line. Yes, my mind says, Mugs Nightshade needs to be in the mix somehow,
  • More than once a limo has passed me on I-15, with tinted windows I couldn’t see into, and I wondered who they were transporting. Of course there had to be a mystery involved—not something simple like a celebrity being shuttled from LA to Vegas. No, something more sinister for sure. But then, I also saw a limo on I-40, why, and where could they possibly be headed on I-40? Laughlin maybe? Or doing Route 66 in a limo? Hardly…,
  • Also on I-40—for an extended period of time, dust was flying, huge trucks were coming and going on and off the median strip producing blowing sand—and of course, because of my PSWA awareness, often a highway patrol officer “on guard.” Caltrans was redoing the median strip in our area, which meant grading, clearing, and replacing culvert underpinnings. This situation, I wanted so much to be a key plot/puzzle piece,
  • As if that wasn’t enough, ran into one my town’s volunteer firemen[iv] at the community center, who listens to the channel/band for fires. Goes straight to a person in need—he’s one of the good guys. So, another piece that caught my imagination—I wanted a fire, volunteer firefighters, the devastation caused by that fire, and with murderous intent of an arsonist,
  • Too much Midsomer Murder binge watching also sent me down the imaginary trail of intrigue produced from a “village struggle,” as in many Midsomer plots. I wanted to include something like that…but in my case, are there enough folks in Shiné even to fight over anything? Hmmm,
  • And for sure—another key plot element I wanted was someone from Leiv’s past to arrive in Shiné. Maybe even on the run from a murderer?

ThinkingHeadtoBookEasy putting all that together, right? Just move the puzzle pieces around until they all fit together intriguingly. Ha!

Well—I finally did make it through the plotting puzzle part and put all those piece together to form a plot I’d like to read. Indeed, I’m now about half through with this book—slow writer. But the cake is mixed, and in my mental oven. And now that I’m finished actually bringing the puzzle pieces together, I also wanted to share how grand the feeling is when you’ve fit it all together in a way you like.

Not sure if plotting is a challenge or joy for others, but would love to hear about how your pieces come together. And on the reading front, do you enjoy tricky multi-layered goings on? Or do you prefer when the author just tells the “darn story” and gets it over with!

Thanks for visiting my kitchen-rest-stop on the winding writing-road, and,

Happy reading and writing trails!


[i] Vickie Paulsen, Paula Deel, and Ronnie Shaw. [ii] Reticence of Ravens and Counsel of Ravens [iii] Death of a Perfect Man, and [iv] Larry Menard

16 thoughts on “A Peek Inside the Kitchen…”

  1. Mad, What an article you have written. Plotting is a tricky thing. In short stories you can’t have too many sub-plots because the story is too short. But in a novel… those twists and turns and dead-ends make for an intriguing read. And getting there, for the writer, is what separates a good writer from everybody else. And the reader appreciates the effort. That’s why they keep coming back for more. I am waiting patiently for you next book. I know I will be mesmerized by your plots, characters, and settings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Gayle, for letting me know you think twists and turns and dead ends are appreciated by readers. I value your opinion. Now, if I can just finish the darned “thing”! (smile)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like your analogies! I’m not much of a cook, but I definitely identify with likening my plotting to solving a puzzle. Yes, it’s always a challenge but an enjoyable one, and I’m always pleased when I’ve figured it out. Thanks for the fun post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’ve pointed out an aspect of this whole plotting thing that I was forgetting/ignoring! Though definitely a challenge–it’s enjoyable! Thanks for reminding me.

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  3. Fascinating glimpse into a mystery writer’s mind, thanks so much for re-assuring us that we are not alone in this respect. It is all too easy to over-think and second-guess a plot or character, yet, on the other hand, all ideas are good for the pot, just keep it for a different recipe, i.e. the next book.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So true, I could use a plot-puzzle piece in another puzzle/recipe. Stubbornness on my part. Of course there have been times I just have to give up, and as you say, put in “the next book.”

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    1. Agree, just have to keep going! By the way, on the post(s) mentioned where I read about where ideas come from was one of yours. (smile)

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  4. Quote, “my taste in reading and writing is–the trickier the better. With surprises of course. While at the same time making sure, when the truth does comes out, the pieces have to all hang-together.”
    This is what makes your books fun to read. And all those puzzle pieces, true they confuse and confound the reader and make him/her scratch his/her head, but……. that all powerful “AH HA!!!” moment is so gratifying. However you bake those books, Madeline, keep it cookin’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jackie, for your kind words–especially that my books are fun to read! And if I’m following you–you’re in the like trickier plots camp. I think the most important part I included in quoting me, is that all the pieces have to hang-together. Have seen too many TV show where I end up fussing at the TV because “it” didn’t make sense at the end–even when stretching my credulity(smile) in their favor. I love “Ah ha!” Moments. Have had lots of those with Agatha Christie. (one of my idols)

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  5. I have a habit of coming up with new plot twists, even in the late editing stages. When I worked in IT, we called that “scope creep” (uncontrolled changes in a project ’s scope). Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes not. And it can be an editor’s suggestion. I have learned to save most of my late-in-coming ideas for my next story. I definitely like tricky plots with twists. Thanks for a great post, Madeline.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Scope creep.” Love it. I admire your discipline and ability to be able to know when to stop, and then envision using in another tale. Definitely skills I need to master, especially since my puzzle pieces are often popping up after I’ve written a good chunk of the story–hazard of going by the seat-of-my-pants as the saying goes. But, thinking about it now, that’s part of the fun of writing for me!

      So glad to hear you like tricky plots and twists, and thanks so much for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great idea for a post, Madeline. Listing the various elements that combined to help you create the plot. One in particular struck a chord with me – the blacked out car windows. Years ago I saw an expensive black sedan with blacked out windows pull out of a driveway in a remote area and, for some reason, I wondered why a person would do that. Was the driver a criminal? A drug dealer? Or, did he have eyes that were overly sensitive to light? As a result Lawrence, an albino and one of my favorite characters in my Malone mysteries, was born.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Loved hearing the back story to Lawrence, Patricia! Yes, tinted windows in a remote area does get the mind going–the “why” of the pieces of reality your senses are taking in? So glad you liked my post, I’m always wondering if I’m “saying” something that means anything to someone else! You’ve made my day. As an aside, my hubby’s name is Lawrence. (smile)

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