Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I Am Kaiser Sohze.

So, I'm watching The Usual Suspects as I sort and label the kids' school supplies. Damn, it's a good movie. Jana wrote earlier about writing humor - and I've got to agree with her. I think it's too hard to explain or do a workshop on because I can't figure out what makes me funny - it's just how I write.

But plotting a really tight mystery is one workshop I'd love to attend. I admire that gift above all others. I've had a lot of people tell me they were surprised by who the bad guy was in my book (no spoilers here - I swear) and I marvel at the fact I was able to keep them guessing because I'm still not sure how I did it (or if I did it).

I love to read a book where I have no idea what's going on until the end - or where there's a twist so twisted your head hurts for days. I'm thinking Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians or The Murder of Roger Ackroyd; a movie like The Usual Suspects or The Village or Memento; the old tv series Mission Impossible, stuff like that. I love getting blown away - especially if it rends me speechless for hours after. (My family likes that too. Let's just say I can be a bit of an excessive chatter.)

With my second book - I felt a lot of pressure to keep the mystery up to snuff. It doesn't get any easier as you go - in fact, I think it gets harder. What I wouldn't give to be an awesome plotter like Christie or M. Night Shamalyan (sp?). Unfortunately, on my part - it takes a lot of work and I'm learning a little more with each book.

So, I watch movies, read books, etc. trying to learn more and I write, trying to get better. Eventually someone will come up with some magic software that will do this for you, but for now - it's all about putting in the work.

And until then, I'd better get back to the movie so I can do some more research.

Leslie "The Assassin" Langtry


danetteb said...

I need to rewatch Usual Suspects, I always catch the ending when it's on the T.V.

Anonymous said...

I could really go for a "writing a tight mystery" workshop. :)

Estella said...

I love being "surprised" by who the villian in a mystery is.

Jana DeLeon said...

The Usual Suspects is my all-time favorite movie and definitely the one that "got me" big time! I wish it were easier to plot mysteries too, especially as then we could work less and drink more. :)

Anonymous said...

I completely agree - great, great movie. And I'm a huge fan of M. Night Shamalayan's myself. Signs is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Great posts, guys. I'm going to have to make Killer Fiction one of my must read destinations!


Debby said...

I use movies in my science classroom. They help the kids learn more.

Kathy Bacus said...

You really have a great point, Leslie. How the heck do you teach someone how to 'write funny'?

And writing one of those head-slapping, 'how-did-he/she-do-that?' mysteries is something all mytery authors strive for. I'd love to pick the brains (figuratively) of those authors who manage to do it and make it appear so easy.

Now that I'm writing on deadlines, I find I spend a lot more time devoted to pre-writing work on my plot and mystery than I used to. I try to fill in a story grid make sure I have all my bases covered. This also speeds up the writing time for me.


~Kathy "Bullet Hole" Bacus~

Christie Craig said...


Great post. I love a good mystery and I love twists that take me by surprise. And I totally agree, it doesn't get any easier. Every time I start a book, I get this fear deep in my gut that the magic won't happen this time. That I will be stuck writing about window treatments and counter tops for the rest of my life. And then there's nothing like that feeling when someone says something great about your book and you are certain they really didn't mean you.

Great posts!

Crime Scene Christie

anne said...

Usual Suspects has always been a favorite of mine. That type of mystery keeps me enthralled.

ellie said...

Usual Suspects has that noir type era in it which makes it something special. No one can replicate this movie with its twists and turns.

Allie Hollister said...

Leslie, I just picked up your book at the grocery store today.(A store in small town Iowa) What a hoot!!!! Read it while I was supposed to be working. Our restaurant was slow today.
The Usual Suspects is one of my all time favorites, along with Primal Fear, for unexpected twists.

Gemma Halliday said...

I love, love, love that movie! Yeah, it totally got me too. Then again. I’ve got to be the only mystery writer I know who can NEVER guess the ending of a mystery movie/book. Ever. I’m so bad at that. No surprise that I didn’t see the ending of TEN LITTLE INDIANS coming either. But, in high school when everyone else was reading Choose your Own Adventure books, I was reading the complete works of Agatha Christie. Which, of course, made me very popular. (Picture my first boyfriend coming over to neck and being really scared as he glanced at my huge bookcase full of murderous tales…)