Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The J. A. Jance program was tonight, and she was a hoot! Funny, honest, quick-witted, even with a few practical insights for the would-be mystery writer like me. Such as, just start writing--get the title, know who is killed, and find out why. When I met her earlier in the day, she was less open, said the way to get started was to sit at the keyboard (I know that but you have to have the idea!). I later learned, though, that she is under terrible stress with the serious illness of a beloved son-in-law. What magic I had hoped for in the personal meeting didn't happen, but onstage she had me mesmerized--and ultimately inspired. And I've never before seen an author close by singing, but she did--and did it well. Among other things, she said she had once taken a Dale Carnegie course--it certainly paid off in her ability to put personal sorrow aside and shine onstage.
She also told one of the scariest stories I ever heard--she and her first husband crossed paths, unknowingly, with a serial killer who killed his victims on the 22nd of the month. When he was arrested on July 20 (many years ago) he confessed that he had visited their house several times since the initial meeting, and they were slated to be killed on the 22nd of July. No wonder she writes mysteries!
My son-in-law Brandon, who will one day write that novel he's always meant to write, left a comment on one of my earlier postings. He wonders why people who can plot usually can't write very well, and people who write well can't plot. Interesting point, which brings me back to the difference between "belles lettres" and storytelling. Some contemporary authors, to me, use the language wonderfully, but their stories don't go anywhere--I don't identify with the characters or care about what happens to them. And I guess I don't read for the sake of language only. It's why I don't like much of today's literature, why I prefer for my personal reading genre fiction--okay, no romances, but certainly mysteries. But maybe J. A. Jance (she is a Judith Ann like me) has the answer--just sit down and write. The plot will come as the characters take over your story and tell you what's going to happen.
I'm beginning to have ideas though not ready to share them--I think I have a title and the name of a protagonist, but I need to know much more about her. I know about the body and where it's found, but I don't know yet who it is (or was), though I think it was a young woman, and I don't know why she was killed.
Time to go to sleep and see if my subconscious will work.

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