Thursday, July 2, 2009

Part Three: Creating The Rune Stone Murders

So I had my setting: a Renaissance Fair at Bruck University. I also had a plot involving a perfect heist, or what would appear to be a perfect heist until my main characters, Caroline Rhodes and Carl Atwater, started snooping around.

And I had a rune stone being discovered by some students during preparation for the fair. I’d already decided to have someone steal the stone, but the question was, why? The stone would be worth a great deal of money if authenticated as a true Viking relic. But what if it was an obvious fake? Who would want to steal it then?

Finding logical answers to those questions was hard. Figuring out how to tie the theft of the rune stone to my perfect heist was even harder. It appeared I had an unsolvable problem—until I looked at the situation from an entirely different angle.

It occurred to me that the heist could have happened years before the story began. It would be a cold case, an unresolved crime that only came to light due to the disappearance of the rune stone. Caroline and Carl would have no idea they’d be dealing with anything other than a simple theft at the beginning of the book.

And so I started to write The Rune Stone Murders. As sometimes happens to writers, I hadn’t even finished the first chapter when characters from previous books in the series started yammering away in my brain, demanding a part in the story.

The first one to be heard from was Professor Andrew Littlewort. The professor had appeared in A Merry Little Murder as a minor character at Bruck’s annual winter holiday party. Regarded by most Rhineburg residents as "squirrelly in the head", Littlewort was called "the Captain Kirk of English Literature" by his colleagues because he boldly went where no other professor dared go. His required reading list included both Shakespeare and Rolling Stone magazine, a combination not unreasonable except for his attempts to prove a similarity between the two.

Being of a tempestuous nature, the professor didn’t quiet down until I cast him as Leif Ericson’s greatest fan at Bruck U. He’s the one who takes possession of the rune stone after its discovery and ultimately ends up in big trouble because of it. (That’ll teach him for being so demanding!)

Caroline’s daughter-in-law was more polite than Littlewort, but she too demanded a part in the story. Being young and inexperienced in the ways of writers, Nikki didn’t know what she was getting into when she suggested her workplace—Rhineburg’s post office—would make a good setting for a murder. (Guess she never heard the term ‘going postal’!)

Nikki proved to be right, which is why she ended up as a major character in this book. But Nikki needed an odd cast of characters surrounding her to make the plot work. In part four of this blog on "Creating The Rune Stone Murders", I’ll tell you all about those characters, including the seven residents of the Rhineburg Boarding House and Home for Gentle Women.

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