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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Finalists and Suspects

Here at Keep Me In Suspense, we're pleased to announce the five suspense finalists of the American Christian Fiction Writers annual Book of the Year contest. They are:

Breaker's Reef by Terri Blackstock
Distant Echoes by Colleen Coble
Black Sands by Colleen Coble
Intimidation by Wanda Dyson
Dark Star by Creston Mapes

Congratulations! The winner will be announced at ACFW's annual conference this September. In the meantime, pick up these books, enjoy them, and then get out your paper and pen and figure out what makes them tick.

And now, to answer a question. Gina said, "I just started making my list of suspects and so far I've only come up with four with good enough motives. Is there a certain amount of suspects that an editor looks for?"

I would say that it's not so much the quantity but quality of suspects that matters. Too many suspects can muddy a story, especially if motives are similar and their personalities seem to merge. And remember, suspects can merely appear to have something to hide, which can send your sleuth on a merry chase (I'm referring mainly to a cozy mystery in this instance).

I am a fan of lists, so I'd start by making a suspect list and comparing them. What is similar about their motivation? Personality? What's different? Are any of them unnecessary to making the story go forward? Too many loose ends can make a story hard to "get out of" and send the reader on unneeded side trips. (Think of the neverending third Lord of the Rings movie. I know tying up the ends was important, but after a while even I was starting to squirm.) As long as you can justify a suspect's existence, keep them!

When I was completing my first cozy mystery, I ran into the opposite problem. I didn't have enough suspects, but the more I looked at the secondary characters, I found another suspect who (I thought) added an interesting touch to the plot.

Thanks for asking this interesting question!


Blogger Ron Estrada said...

You have to think like a cop, too. Everyone is a suspect until proven otherwise. Any character that pops up will be on your reader's suspect list. It's the way mystery readers have been trained. They're on to all your sneaky ploys!

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question about my cause of death in my cozy. Where do I post questions. What I'd like is a site to visit with info like, how long with a dead person keep bleeding, and how much will they bleed.
But I'm afraid I'll trigger some weird Homeland Security web inspection and have to write all my books from Quantanamo Bay in Cuba.
I'm not really anonymous. I'm Mary Connealy and very comfortable with that, but I clicked Anonymous to save time. :)

4:24 PM  
Blogger Candice Speare said...


As you know, the bleeding depends upon the weapon, the kind of wound, and position of the body, etc.

For forensic websites, check out our resource page: http://www.keepmeinsuspense.com/Resource%20Websites.htm

These are legit sites that have been around for a long time. I don't think any of them would trigger alarms at U.S. agencies since the topics have nothing to do with trigger words. It's not like you're researching bombs, for instance.

There is also a yahoo group that's free to join called crimescenewriter. You can join that and ask all the questions your heart desires. The guy who owns the list is a retired criminal investigator. Just reading the posts is informative.

If you don't find what you need, please let us know.

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Candice. I'll check out the forensic website. I asked a doctor these questions about this yesterday and I think I scared him. Oops. I also had a poison question and he said I should call the poison control center. But he said they'd probably answer then, then wait a few minutes and call me back and ask for my husband then quietly tell him to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!!!
Not-so-anonymous Mary

10:48 AM  

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