Monday, March 21, 2011

Author Jackie Vick's Dark Secret

My guest today is Sisters in Crime member Jackie Vick, author of the novella The Grooms Cake, a romantic comedy, and two children's books. She has some humorous mysteries in the works too. Come say hello!
I’m about to admit one of my darker secrets. Ready?
Sometimes, I cram the laundry into the machine without going through the pockets.
Don’t worry. I pay for it, though the punishment doesn’t come until I take the clothes out of the dryer. I’m one of those people who always carry tissues on me, just in case. It’s a habit I picked up from my mother, though I don’t tuck them into my shirt cuff. Often.
I know that I’ve sinned against the cleaning gods when I see the first strip of tissue clinging to my sweat pants. Then another shows up on my husband’s sock. Finally, I’m plucking stray pieces from the inside of shirts and the seams of my underwear, battling static cling and wondering how one little tissue wound up in so many places.
The same thing happens when I jump into my story without plotting out the mystery. After typing THE END and allowing my masterpiece to rest, I’ll pick it up a week later and expect to breeze through the final reading. But then the first piece of tissue shows up.
Let’s say I get to the chapter where the sleuth puts the pieces together. One character, Tiffany, has the opportunity to commit the crime, and she has a motive. She wants money. She pretends to be a plain, dorky girl, but she likes nice things. Very nice things. That’s the motive I have in my head, but then I notice that I never showed that she has expensive tastes. We could assume that every girl likes gems, but unless I go back and have Tiffany accurately appraise another character’s engagement ring or have her wear a Cartier watch that she allegedly “inherited from her grandmother”, the reader won’t know.  
Or I might have a short piece that takes place over one day, so I don’t see a need for a timeline. Then I notice that my sleuth is eating dinner, but when I cut to the point of view of a suspect in the next scene, she’s snacking on lunch. I have to go back through the whole thing and make sure the events take place in order--I have to pluck out the stray pieces of tissue.
Outlining my mystery allows me to see what’s happening and when. It’s a way to make sure that the clues are spaced throughout the story and not lumped together at the beginning or in the end. If each question raised in the story is a tissue, the outline is my way of going through the pockets to make sure that I don’t wind up with a mess at the end--in the case of my story, unanswered questions.
It’s hard to believe that one forgotten detail like lunch or dinner can cause such problems, but as with that simple, aloe-enhanced square of fibers, the potential for mischief is incredible. 
Bio: Jacqueline Vick is the author of the children’s book Logical Larry and a short story collection, A Mysterious Cast of Characters, soon to be released on Kindle. Her short fiction and articles--including an essay on how to train your dog using a pet psychic--have appeared in various magazines and ezines.
You can visit Jackie at her website,


Ellis Vidler said...

Too funny! The air turns blue when I discover the tissue left in the laundry. It's invariably with a load of darks. My stories are the same. I finally break down and write a scene-by-scene timeline. In one, my character picked up the Sunday paper (with a significant article, so it was noticeable)--unfortunately, it was clearly Wednesday. Sigh. My sympathies, Jackie.

E. B. Davis said...

One of my critique partners just pointed out that my "Friday" should be "Thursday" because of a very real world situation. Of course this means that I have to go back through the entire manuscript and re-time everything. Now why didn't I think of that real world situation when I plotted and started to write?

Polly said...

Oh, how I understand, on both levels. First, I'm a tissue person. I believe I keep Puffs in business. And I put them up my sleeve when I don't have pockets, like right now. Invariably, one winds up going through the wash. Second, I just had to go over about six chapters because I had people doing things one day, and clearly, the next chapter was the day before. I don't know why I never noticed it before. Now I wonder how often I've done that in other books. Dare I even look? I usually do a timeline after it's written. Guess I missed this one. Thanks for the post, Jackie.

M.M. Gornell said...

I wear a lot of black, and "tissue lint" is always a lovely addition! Love Jackie's writing... (and blogs)