Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Unlike Nancy…..don’t eavesdrop

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Sep• 12•23

Mild weather here, thank goodness. Took yesterday off to go antiquing with a friend in Aurora, a small town nearby. Not all the stores were open because it was a Monday so I’m happy to report we’re returning.  Besides a pub lunch, buying old books, strolling around charming old neighborhoods, and a good, long catching-up chat, the day felt soft and bonny. Please indulge me; I’ve never used bonny in a sentence before, but it suits. A sense of change brewing in the trees and air. The leftover flavor off almost-chilly nights. Pumpkins in store fronts.

As for writing–always on my mind–I’ve been thinking about Nancy Drew, the young fictional sleuth who came into our midst in the 1930s. Anyone out there read all the Nancy Drew books? I read every Nancy book available in the school and town library, at least twenty. Without realizing it at the time, she was one of my heroes. A blue roadster? Sign me up. But looking back, her indefatigable nature was what I most admired. It was a trait common to the biography subjects I read and characters I hoped to emulate. And Nancy Drew demonstrated more bravura than was the norm during my growing-up years.

Here’s a beautiful article on Ms. Drew, her stories and adventures. And www.nancydrewsleuth.com is a fun site to explore.

While Nancy–with some help from her friends–was clever and practical, some of her detecting was, well amateurish. Schoolgirlish.  Now of course she WAS an 18-year-old amateur, but techniques like eavesdropping near an open door or behind lilac shrubs are written for the convenience of the author.  When writing adult fiction find another way to gather the information. Serendipity of any sort needs to be handled with utmost cleverness. And rarely. And how about using current spy technology instead? There are a lot of gadgets available.

If you’re writing historical fiction, improvise, misdirect, and use props from the era.

The rational behind your characters’ actions are more important than providing your readers clues. Sure, move the plot forward. But finesse matters because clues–along with dead bodies–are the most memorable parts of suspense stories. 

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

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