Monday, April 21, 2014

Guest Blogger - Nancy Cohen on Story Magic

Story Magic by Nancy J. Cohen

Story Magic may not be real magic in the sense that something unexplained happens, but writers must have faith in it. Story Magic happened to me when I was writing Hanging By A Hair, my 11th Bad Hair Day mystery. I have a character who was jilted by a woman back when they were young lovers. The girl’s parents whisked her off to Europe so she could get over him.

Somewhere along the way, a thought struck me. What if the parents took her to Europe because she was pregnant? In those days, it would have been necessary to hide this state of affairs. Thus a whole new story angle was born that led to my sleuth tracking down this offspring to Marco Island, Florida.
These developments stem from the writer’s subconscious, but they seem like magic nonetheless. It’s something we cannot account for when we write a synopsis beforehand. The synopsis can be rewritten later to accommodate these plot changes. But it’s a wondrous feeling when a new angle suddenly pops into one’s head. It also makes the story more exciting for you, the reader. Because if I am surprised, so are you, and that makes for a better read.

The writing process itself is magical. Everyone always asks, where do you get your ideas? My reply is that ideas are everywhere. It’s having the time to write them which is the problem. Truly, story ideas in a series are easier to come by. The sequels spring from the setting, characters and plot developments that have come before. Thus after my hairdresser sleuth, Marla Shore, marries her boyfriend, a honeymoon is sure to follow. This becomes the setting for Peril by Ponytail, the next series installment.

And I’m already thinking to the book beyond. Marla has opened a day spa next to her salon. We haven’t centered a story there yet. I’ve put that nugget into my brain, along with a possible book title, hoping that the means of murder will pop into my head.

If you think about it, the entire reading experience is magical. You’re whisked away to an imaginary place you’re able to visualize from a bunch of words on a page. That’s a characteristic of humanity few people consider. But to have this ability to read fiction and to escape into another world is a blessed gift. Not everyone possesses it. If you’re one of the lucky readers, you can go to any time and place presented in a story or in your imagination. I feel bad for people who lack this ability. They’re rooted to reality, although they might escape by reading about home decoration or clothing styles or cars. Everyone finds a means to relax, but creating a fictional world in your head is truly a talent. Reading a work of fiction is a magical experience.

Do you like it to be quiet when you read, or do you not mind outside noise or music?


Hanging By A Hair
A Bad Hair Day Mystery
Marla’s joyous move to a new house with her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, is marred by their next-door neighbor who erects an illegal fence between their properties. When Dalton reminds the man of the local permitting laws, tempers flare—and worse, the neighbor is found dead the following day. Dismayed when Dalton is removed from the case due to a conflict of interest, Marla decides it’s up to her to find the killer.

Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several of these titles have made the IMBA bestseller list. Nancy is also the author of Writing the Cozy Mystery, a valuable instructional guide for mystery writers. Her imaginative romances have proven popular with fans as well. Her titles in this genre have won the HOLT Medallion and Best Book in Romantic SciFi/Fantasy at The Romance Reviews. Active in the writing community and a featured speaker at libraries and conferences, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who's Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, she enjoys reading, fine dining, cruising and outlet shopping.


  1. Nancy, I think you are so right in both the magic of the process and the magic for the reader. I love when a story truly can carry me away for a bit and let me be in another place and time.

  2. That's the idea! I like to be transported to another world when I read, too, and so that is the feeling I try to give my readers.


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