March 23, 2011

Mysteries and Facts Hi, Paige Wheeler of Folio here again. What makes a book stick with you, long after the last page? I’ve asked this question to my staff at various times and I’ve heard numerous responses: unique plot, engaging characters, evocative setting. For me, a book sticks with me when I’ve learned something. It could be some incidental fact, such as the effects of a poison, how ballistics analysis works, or even the best time of year to grow asparagus (coming into season now, in case you’re curious). So, what does a reader learn in your story?<br/> <br/> Now, that isn’t to say that every line has to give deep insight, but when there are a few interesting facts sprinkled throughout the writing, the narrative seems more real. But make sure you get your facts right. If your character is an expert at making pies, for example, don’t say that she rolled out the dough for her apple pie, put it in the pie pan and filled with apples etc. If you don’t mention that she blind bakes the crust, then be sure to mention that the pie is soggy. If you don’t, you’ll lose a bit of trust from the readers who bake. So, make sure you get your facts right to keep the trust of your baking readers, and at the same time your non-bakers will learn about blind baking (the process of “pre-baking” the crust before filling with juicy fillings). Since, I’m not a baker at all, this is something that *I* just learned. Who knew?<br/> <br/> I asked my staff for a few instances of things seen in published books that make a reader lose trust in an author; here are some examples: “when we read that the police have fished the gun out of the lake and are pulling prints.” Most mystery readers realize that you can’t pull prints on waterlogged items.* Here’s another example: “we read that the engine on a single propeller airplane shut off and the aircraft started to plunge toward the ground.” Planes glide, and a short conversation with an amateur pilot would have kept the author from making that mistake. The end result (needing to have the pilot incapacitated and the hero injured) could still have been achieved without the pilots in the reading audience wanting to throw the book away.<br/> <br/> So, how do you find out the right facts? Read, read, read. Go to the library and do research. There are organizations for almost everything and they are happy to provide information. Another great source of information? Your friends. They have a variety of interests and knowledge that can be a godsend when you want to add that bit of spice to your story, which can help your readers not only want to keep reading your current story but want to pick your next book and the one after that.<br/> <br/> Happy researching!<br/> <br/> *that stated, I found a site which indicated that it IS possible to pull prints from “wet<br/> items. Check out this link: <a href=""></a><br/>

Jeff Cohen

We are a group of authors, editors, publishers, publicists, booksellers and reviewers with an interest in mystery books.

Cynthia Chow
The Typepad Team

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