Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Reckless Engineer by Jac Wright: Guest Post

 



How do you go about creating a murder mystery
and what do you think makes a great story?

 
Generally, for me, the core idea of the story for a book comes inextricably interwoven with the main characters in the story in a moment of sudden inspiration.  The story is very powerful when this happens.   

For example, I woke up late on a warm summer day last June with an image of a fugitive escaping and running away from an overturned van transporting him to court from prison that had met with an accident. Prisoners wear normal clothing in England, not orange jumpsuits, and they are not in chains.  He runs into the crowds and a bus parked behind a mall to hide among the people only to find that it is a film set.  The actor playing a main character of the movie and the director are having a fight. The actor suddenly punches the director in the face who falls backward. My protagonist fugitive hiding among the supporting film crew catches him and breaks the fall.  The director gets up, wipes the blood off his nose, fires the main actor loudly, and asks him to get out of his movie set.  He turns to my protagonist and asks: ‘You there, what’s your name?’  ‘Art Miller,’ he gives a fake name.  ‘Art, you are playing Michael Fallon. His trailer is yours now. Go with my crew and get dressed.’  And there I have the plot, the main characters, and the first chapter of my standalone book to come, In Plain Sight.

The core plot idea for The Reckless Engineer was derived as a complementary plot from the idea for The Closet that came to me in a moment of sudden inspiration.  The Closet is about the troubles my protagonist gets into because he acts blinded by passionate love for the female.  In it I am right inside my protagonist’s head, telling the reader how it feels for him––the joys, the angst, and the fears––from his point of view using a very close third person limited POV.  While thinking of coming up with a plot for The Reckless Engineer, I decided to explore this same idea, but this time I would explore the impact of the actions of my from the viewpoints of the people around him; i.e. his family, friends, and people at work. 

So, when it comes to a murder mystery, someone has to die.  Why would someone be driven to kill another person?  It has been said that the most common motive for murder is love, or rather the loss of it––many are crimes of passion.  Apparently the next most prolific motive is to prevent loss of wealth or to gain wealth.  A third common motive is self-preservation or preservation of some aspect of one’s lifestyle when one has done something seriously illegal or wrong and another person knows about it.  A fourth is for revenge for some great wrong someone has done; or to escape it if the wrongdoing is ongoing. 

Great.  So we have a protagonist who is involved in a love affair blinded by romantic love. We immediately have his family around him who will have motives to kill the female for his love.  We make our protagonist very rich and there we have the motive for people around him to kill for the wealth involved.  We make our victim involved in doing some great wrong to some other characters and there they have motives to kill her for revenge or to escape this wrongdoing.  Hence, once you have the main plot idea, you build (generally 4 to 7) characters around the core characters and create a conflict each of the other characters is involved in with your victim. Along with a motive and a conflict you give each of your main characters an overriding psychology and keep each one true to his or her psychology, letting them then drive the story forward from the initial seed idea. 

At this stage it helps to have studied drama and plays for the scene setting because each book is fifty or more dramatic scenes.  It also helps with your prose to have studied poetry. 

Then we get down to how the victim is going to be killed.  It has been said that poison was Agatha Christie’s preferred technique, but one could have the victim pushed from a great height, suffocated while sleeping, strangled, bludgeoned with a fatal blow, drowned etc.  Since I was writing a story about electronics engineers I knew about the problem of potassium cyanide toxicity in the potassium auro cyanide (Auro or Au is the chemical name and sign for gold respectively) gold electroplating process used in electronics.  I had to do some research from this point on to actually find day-to-day used chemicals from which poisonous cyanide can be synthesised in order to give all my suspects (not just the electronics engineers) the means of accessing this murder weapon of choice.  You can replace the gold (Auro) in the compound with iron (Ferro) to have a very similar reaction with potassium ferrocynide, which is used as a normal fertilizer, and therefore I now had a murder weapon accessible to all my suspects.  (You can read a little more about this on Wikipedia)
 
Then you have to select which one of the suspects you are going to make the culprit and think about how the culprit would go about concealing his or her crime.  However, he or she must make some mistakes and leave some discreet clues for our hero, the amateur sleuth, and our readers to find. 

The above takes care of the Mystery or the Whodunnit, which is an intellectual process––that of detection and analysis of the clues and evidence and arriving at the clever conclusion of who did the deed.  You drive your reader through piquing his or her intellectual curiosity to uncover the crime 

Suspense, however, is an emotional process and you have to get your reader emotionally involved or the story is not strong enough.  You have to draw your reader in and get them emotionally involved with your characters––make your reader ache for your characters, anxious for them, fear for them, love and feel protective of them, or even hate some of them.  You raise the tension through the story primarily by making your reader anxious and fear for a core set of your characters while hating a few others.  At the end you relieve your readers’ anxiety and fear sustained through the book by delivering the good characters you make them love to safety and happiness.  You relieve the hatred and aversion you build for your bad characters by punishing the wrongdoers in some way.  And that I believe is what makes a great Mystery & Suspense story.
 
 

The Cast of The Reckless Engineer
Celebrates Christmas the Year Before
 
The cast of The Reckless Engineer celebrates Christmas the year before while a storm is brewing that would explode less than ten months later.
           
        Jeremy clutched his steering wheel in a low rage mixed with pain that had not lessened after all these months. He had pulled over outside Maggie’s house, having driven all the way to Southampton from London to surprise her, a wrapped present of diamond studded anklets forlorn on the seat next to him. Maggie had gorgeous feet with long French manicured toes and he had longed to latch the anklets around them. That, however, was Gregory’s SUV in her driveway.  Jeremy had been sure that Maggie and he were back together for good when she had driven over to his flat in London Kensington and stayed three nights with him just last week. The sex had been so intimate, powerful, and he had poured his heart out to her about his worries about his new company. Radio Silicon’s had finished its first engineering contract a month ago and, try as he might, Jeremy had not been able to land another one in this recession. He needed her now.  How could she be with him and then sleep with Gregory only a few days later as if she and he had never happened?
        He couldn’t go home to Mother. He had told his parents that he was spending Christmas with Maggie. They loved Maggie and were so proud of her, and he had never told them that she had broken up and moved out.
        He thought for a moment and pressed the fast-dial button on his mobile. ‘Hey, Harry. I’m coming over for Christmas after all. You still have a place open around your dinner table?’
        Thank god for Harry, his best friend––as far as Jeremy was concerned, almost his brother. Growing up on the same street together, Jeremy had defended Harry from the playground bullies through their school years and Harry had bailed him out of all the trouble he got into during their university days together at Stanford. With another glance at Maggie’s house, which sent a pang of pain from this throat through his heart down to his gut, Jeremy put his car back into gear. The Fortnum & Mason hamper and the bottle of champagne on his back seat would go to Christmas dinner with him at Harry’s place.
* * *
        The Family was gathered in the Sitting Room of the McAllen mansion in Aberdeen. After a hearty Christmas dinner they were now enjoying an assortment of deserts in the Sitting Room. It was eerie how much this room reflected the Sitting Room in his own house in Guildford, Jack thought; but then Caitlin and Douglas McAllen had directed the designs and the build of that part of their house and Caitlin had wanted her own little bit of Scotland right in the heart of Hampshire.
        The men were in tartan kilts, a variation derived from the tartan of the MacAlister clan the family descended from. Douglas McAllen always insisted on it. Jack felt ridiculous in the skirt, but he would dare not show anything but enthusiasm to anyone in “The Family” even though he always privately complained about it to Caitlin (complaints which she would answer by asking him to stop being so cross all the time). That morning he had had to follow the McAllen men and join a long procession of nearly fifty Scottish clans for a slow march around Aberdeen to the wail of bagpipes after which they had been served steaming bowls of soup and bread at the church-hall. He had to admit he had felt something primal and exhilarating about all that male tribal energy in the hall after the march and the buttered bread soaked in the soup had tasted so good.
        Gillian was helping little one-year-old Kristie unwarp the presents around the brightly lit Christmas tree while the toddler’s proud parents, Ronnie and Elise, and grandma Leanna looked on, laughing and applauding. McAllen briefly stopped the discussion with Jack on the electromagnetic telemetry tool for detecting oil and gas reservoirs that was on Jack’s planning table at the McAllen Blackgold offices down south to look on at his granddaughters with a proud benevolent smile. Jack could sense he had McAllen all excited about this device, but why the hell the he kept probing him about the electro-mechanical details that only an electrical engineer could understand Jack didn't know.  Well, he had got used to humouring the old man, keeping his impatience in check.  Jack followed McAllen's gaze and glanced around the room. The McAllen women were all in tartan skirts but for Caitlin who had had a pair of trousers made out of her family tartan. Caitlin always liked to wear the trousers.
        A splash, splash of water drew Jack’s attention to the pool outside the large French patio doors.  As usual Peter had tagged along up to Scotland with everybody and, as usual, he was swimming his evening laps outside in the heated swimming pool. As he had promised Marianne, Jack would fly down to Portsmouth with Peter tomorrow morning, leaving the rest of his family behind, and have Boxing Day dinner with his own kids, Peter and Mark, and his mother at Marianne’s.
        A text vibrated the Blackberry in Jack’s hand. There wasn’t even a pocket to keep his phone in this bloody costume. Jesus, it was Michelle with one of those “sextexts” as she called them. It had been six months since he had got involved with Michelle and now he wanted out. He had broken up with her just before Christmas. A sudden tremor of fear ran through him like a chill. She had thrown a tantrum and threatened to tell Caitlin all about the affair, and here she was invading this respectable family scene with a brash, explicit message that had a hint of a threat in it. He had better stop by her house and pacify her before driving over to Marianne’s. Jack knew what pacifying her meant––wild, clothes tearing, sweat pouring, neck biting, back scraping, loud groaning sex. Jack took in a deep breath, puffed out his cheeks, and blew out the air slowly as if he were blowing into a bowl of hot butternut squash soup with bits of bacon in it.
 
 

 
 
Can you forgive betrayal?
The aftershocks of an affair reverberate out to those in the lives of the lovers, who will NOT take it lying down. 

Jack Connor lives an idyllic life by the Portsmouth seaside married to Caitlin McAllen, a stunning billionaire heiress, and working at his two jobs as the Head of Radar Engineering of Marine Electronics and as the Director of Engineering of McAllen BlackGold, his powerful father-in-law's extreme engineering company in oil & gas. He loves his two sons from his first marriage and is amicably divorced from his beautiful first wife, Marianne Connor. Their delicately balanced lives are shattered when the alluring Michelle Williams, with whom Jack is having a secret affair, is found dead and Jack is arrested on suspicion for the murder.

Jeremy Stone brings in a top London defence attorney, Harry Stavers, to handle his best friend's defence.

Who is the bald man with the tattoo of a skull seen entering the victim's house? Who is the "KC" that Caitlin makes secret calls to from a disposable mobile? Has the powerful Douglas McAllen already killed his daughter's first partner, and is he capable of killing again? Is Caitlin's brother's power struggle with Jack for the control of McAllen Industries so intense that he is prepared to kill and frame him? Is the divorce from his first wife as amicable on her part as they believe it to be? Are his sons prepared to kill for their vast inheritance? Who are the ghosts from Caitlin's past haunting the marriage? What is the involvement of Jack's manager at Marine Electronics?

While Jack is charged and his murder trial proceeds in the Crown Court under barrister Harry Stavers' expert care, Jeremy runs a race against time to find the real killer and save his friend's life, if he is in fact innocent, in a tense tale of love, friendship, power, and ambition.


 
 
Jac Wright is a poet published in literary magazines, a published author, and an electronics engineer educated at Stanford, University College London, and Cambridge who lives and works in England. Jac studied English literature from the early age of three, developing an intense love for poetry, drama, and writing in Trinity College Speech & Drama classes taken afternoons and Saturdays for fourteen years, and in subsequent creative writing classes taken during the university years. A published poet, Jac's first passion was for literary fiction and poetry writing as well as for the dramatic arts. You will find these influences in the poetic imagery and prose, the dramatic scene setting, and the deep character creation.


These passions - for poetry, drama, literary fiction, and electronic engineering - have all been lovingly combined to create the first book in the literary suspense series, The Reckless Engineer. There are millions of professionals in high tech corporate environments who work in thousands of cities in the US, the UK, and the world such as engineers, technicians, technical managers, investment bankers, and corporate lawyers. High drama, power struggles, and human interest stories play out in the arena every day. Yet there are hardly any books that tell their stories; there are not many books that they can identify with. Jac feels compelled to tell their stories in The Reckless Engineer series.

Jac also writes the literary short fiction series, Summerset Tales, in which he explores characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances in the semi-fictional region of contemporary England called Summerset, partly the region that Thomas Hardy called Wessex. Some of the tales have an added element of suspense similar to Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected. The collection is published as individual tales in the tradition of Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers and Thomas Hardy's Wessex Tales. The first tale, The Closet, accompanies the author's first full-length literary suspense title, The Reckless Engineer.

Author, Poet & Electronic Engineer


Twitter:      @JacWrightBooks


 



Enter the Author's Giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Giftcard!
Webform: http://jacwrightbooks.wix.com/jacwright#!tour/c239
2 winners will be selected.
Ends January 30th.


2 comments:

Jac Wright said...

Thanks, Laurie, for hosting me. Looking forward to meeting your blog members.

Members can enter the giveaway contest on my Webform:

http://jacwrightbooks.wix.com/jacwright#!tour/c239

Jac Wright said...

LOVE your buttons and header, Laurie. Do they change from season to season?