In which we’re wrapping up reader questions

Today is our final reader question, this one from Jessica:

What’s the process you follow when writing a mystery? Do you know the answer (who done it) and work backwards, or do you let the characters lead to you the answer?

For me, writing a mystery is a simple thing from a structural standpoint. I always know who did it and why when I begin. Now, I also make sure that a number of characters could have done it and could have WANTED to do it–this helps with red herrings and plot twists. And more than once I’ve been tempted to change horses midstream and let someone else do the killing. I haven’t done it yet, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I succumb to temptation one of these days…The reason I haven’t done it yet is because it could require a phenomenal amount of rewriting and I do like to work clean.

I was intrigued to read that Agatha Christie often wrote without knowing who the murderer was. When it came time to write the last chapter, she would select the least likely candidate, then make THAT character the murderer. She would go back and rewrite the few things that were necessary to make it all fit–which I think accounts for both her occasional misses and her far more frequent brilliant innovations.

Alright, chickens, that is IT for reader questions–and they were grand! Thanks so much to those of you who asked. Now, for September and October, I’m doing something I’ve NEVER done before on the blog. We’re going retro! I am featuring a book a week, starting next week with SILENT IN THE GRAVE, going all through the Lady Julia series, the stand alones, even the novellas. There will be excerpts, extra features never posted anywhere before, and even giveaways–so that’s EIGHT WEEKS of fun I’ve got planned!


2 thoughts on “In which we’re wrapping up reader questions”

  1. Blake says:

    Those are two (of the MANY) things I love about your books–red herrings and plot twists. I like that you offer some resolution to the red herrings. You don’t just leave things dangling. And those plot twists usually make me gasp out loud. I think the reveal in The Dark Enquiry evoked my most shocked response.

    What you have planned for the next eight weeks sounds delicious! *bounces* Can’t wait. 🙂

  2. Lynne says:

    Thanks for all the q & a’s about writing, Deanna. It gives wonderful insight into the process. I didn’t know that Agatha Christie waited to chose her culprit…I would be like you, figuring out the crime and criminal and then weaving the story to get to that ending. Of course, Julia(and her family) and Brisbane are quirky enough to make the jouney to the end so very satisfying. Whenever I recommend your books to a friend, I sort of paraphrase that first scene in the first book where Julia’s husband is dying and she says something tart to him. It was enough to get me to read on and want to know the mystery right away.

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