Friday, April 2, 2010

Guest Blogger - Dorothy Howell


Tis spring, and every mystery writer’s thoughts turn to – murder?
Actually, I’m always thinking about killing someone – on paper, that is. Since I started writing the Haley Randolph series two years ago, I’ve had murder on my mind almost non-stop. I’m always trying to think of new ways to come up with the perfect crime. It’s the centerpiece of a mystery novel, so it had better be good.
Just as important, in my opinion, are the characters in a series and how their fictional lives revolve around the murder. Each player in the cast of characters brings something unique to the story. Each has his or her own place in the crime, and in solving it.
I love a good character. I’ve found that, in my own reading, I’ll sometimes “forgive” a weak murder plot if I absolutely love the character. I’ll find myself thinking, “Who cares whodunit? I just want to know what happens to the people!”
As I was writing Handbags and Homicide, the launch book for the Haley Randolph series, I was having such fun writing this sassy, edgy character. Then suddenly realized I’d written an entire chapter that had nothing to do with the mystery. I hadn’t put in anything “mysterious!”
That was a real wake up call for me. I had to keep focused on my readers. They expected a murder investigation, red herrings, actual clues – and rightly so. But I didn’t want to lose the fun and excitement I felt writing the Haley character.
My books have become a marriage, if you will, of both character and mystery. I put equal emphasis on both. I pick a murder victim, a time and a method of murder that amateur sleuth Haley, an L.A. sales clerk in the midst of a big-time quarter-life crisis, can solve.
I like to include a second mystery – not necessarily a murder – that Haley must solve in each book. Her love life is always something she must deal with in every story, as well. I enjoy keeping her involved with her fictional friends, family, and co-workers. And, as always, Haley is on the hunt for the season’s hottest handbag.
Does this seem like a lot to write about? Yes, it does. My feeling is that a mystery – or any book, for that matter – should contain so many compelling, well constructed, engaging plot lines that you don’t think you can fit them all into your allotted page count.
For me, juggling multiple plot lines makes the story move quickly, offers more entertainment, and hopefully, keeps readers coming back for more!

Happy Reading!


  1. I agree that I can forgive a weak plot if I love the characters. but I WANT both.

    On the other hand, if I dont like the protag, even the plot rarely can make me come back for book 2 in a series. LOL


  2. All of you modern day mystery writers have to be extra crafty and creative than past writers because of all of the modern technology in foerensics and cell phones, internet, etc. Including them in setting up, investigating and solving the mystery is a challenge, I am sure!!!!


Review: Instinct by James Patterson & Howard Roughan (Formerly published as Murder Games)

Dr. Dylan Rhinehart receives an unexpected visit from the police to go to a murder scene where his book on criminal behavior is part of ...