Tag Archives: Mystery

Friday Fiction – The Newcomer

The Fictioneers have made the press again, and happily so, the Daily Post – proof not only that Madison had a fantastic idea and carried it through well as our founder, but that Rochelle’s leadership continues to take us from strength to strength. I’m proud to be part of such a great and supportive group of writers.

Rochelle has given us one of her own pictures this week, and what jumped out first was not the criss-cross porch or the roman-style columns, but the green grass and tree beyond. We’ve just returned from a weekend at Blue Mountain ski resort, to a Toronto still in deep-freeze, and green has always been a colour that soothes my soul. I may have to stare at the picture a little longer, take in some virtual Vitamin D and pray for spring. But in the meantime, a story – one that I hope is, if not clear, then explicitly unclear. I welcome your feedback – good or bad.



The Newcomer

They watched it going up from behind twitching curtains or open stares. Everyone had an opinion, none of them good.

But it rose as surely as the sun, and when it was finished – when the builders had gone and the surrounding ground turned from dirty mud to lush lawn – they flocked to the door carrying flowers and fruit, greeting the new neighbour with smiles and good wishes.

He, for his part, returned the smiles, accepted the gifts and called everybody “friend”. And so, with a wink, and the turning of a blind eye, he might have appeared welcome.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Inspiration Monday – Through the Windshield

This week’s InMon prompt, Difficulty Swallowing, came just too close to the mark. I’ve had a viciously sore throat for over a week now and I’m quite sick of it! So I’ve chosen another one for my story: through the windshield. I welcome your thoughts and comments.


Night Drive

It’s dark and raining. It’s been dark and raining for hours, and I don’t know when it will ever stop. The road is louder now, and I wonder if that means we are in a different state, or on a bridge, or something else, but it is too dark outside to make out anything except the headlights of the cars coming towards us, and the taillights of the ones leading us on.

Does each one of those cars hold a girl? Behind the headlights, should I be able to see frightened eyes – tired but sleepless – staring back at me, hoping for answers in the beams shining on them?

I feel like a little girl, and a big girl all at once. I’ve never been allowed up so late before, but now we are awake and driving and there is no sign of a hotel or a house or anywhere to stop.

We filled up a while ago, at a gas station next to a stop light. There was nothing else around and Daddy didn’t want me to get out, but I had to pee, so he let me go into the store. Above the counter it said “Queenston Gas”, but I never heard of Queenston, so I still don’t know where we are.

I close my eyes and for a second I can see Mummy’s face, thick and red. Her eyes are open and staring straight at me, but they are not smiling like normally; they are frightening, maybe frightened.


I open my eyes and Mummy is gone.

“Don’t fall asleep.” Daddy sounds strange. His voice is quiet but it feels like he’s shouting. “I need you to be brave.”

I wonder if it would be easier to be brave if I was asleep, but I know I would see Mummy like that again, and I am glad to keep my eyes open.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asks after another million miles of darkness.

I shake my head, even though I know he can’t see me.

“You’re safe now,” he says into the night. It sounds like he’s talking to me, but he’s using the voice he uses when he’s all on his own in the bathroom and I think perhaps he’s talking to himself. “It’s all going to be OK.”

The headlights shine on his face for a moment and I can see he’s crying. I want to hold his hand, then, but I daren’t touch him. I wind my fingers into my skirt and stare out at the rain.



Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing

Friday Fiction – A Rare Kindness

For the last few weeks, my Friday Fiction entries have been a bit of fun – a nod to our beautiful hostess, Rochelle, and an admission from the heart of a struggling procrastinator. But this week, I wanted to go back to real story-writing. Then I saw the prompt from Erin Leary and it made me think of a couple of things. Initially, it reminded me of the third FF photo I ever responded to, but then it made me feel much bleaker and darker, helped no doubt by the fact I’m currently reading Cornell Woolrich’s ‘Four Novella’s of Fear’ and getting back in touch with my dark side.

It was the dark side that won out, and I’d love to hear her well (or not) this story works for you.


A Rare Kindness

The weather is so rarely kind. But when I passed the spot next morning, I was pleasantly surprised. The rain in the night had fallen on saturated ground, there and upstream, and the field beside the road was now just more river. No evidence of my labours remained.

Tomorrow, perhaps, or next week, or next month, when the waters recede, her grave might be visible. The water might even reopen it and free her body the way I freed her soul. But for now, my crime escapes detection. And tomorrow I will be far enough away to do the same.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

In Mon – Cutting Through The Haze

Thursday morning, time for an InMon story! In light of my concerns about writing too many 100 word stories, I deliberately tried to go long this time. It comes in just under 500 words and I have to say there was a definite moment of hesitation at about 120! hopefully it doesn’t show and you enjoy the finished product. Thanks to Steph for a tough set of prompts this week.

The picture comes from wikimedia – I’m not sure about the grammar but I liked the sentiment (which reads: Good people are like street lights along the roads. They do not make the distance short, but they light up the path and make [the] walk easy and safe.)


Night Visitor

Evening fell like a night from a Dickens novel – thick with fog and lit only by the distant glow of obscured streetlamps. The fog shrouded everything, from the lights to the far-off sounds of traffic and revellers. Some headed home, others headed out.

None of them would notice the lone figure on the damp pavement with his head tucked down under the high collar of his jacket. None of them would see him stop at each house, pause in the doorway, and then move on. His touch was like one from the angel of death: no-one saw him come or go, yet everyone felt his visit after he had left.

His feet pounded rhythmically as he moved from house to house, yet the sound went unheard. He traced a route he knew well – cutting across gardens and passing over fences where that shortened the path. Each step confident and accustomed. Each house known and expected.

Occasionally a dog barked, or a cat leapt from its position on a windowsill. Animals’ senses were so much more finely attuned to his presence. They could feel his approach, and it made them wary. Once, a barking dog was silenced by the gruff voice of a man, “Shut up! I can’t hear the TV”, but the man himself had no idea of the meaning and import of that bark; no idea how close he had passed.

At the end of the road, a police car drove by: its lights fuzzy in the fog but its siren cutting through the haze. He froze to the spot, waiting for it to pass out of sight and hearing. The fog seemed to close in, hiding him like the cloak of night.

Though he knew the police wouldn’t touch him, the siren left his heart beating faster. It had been so sudden and so loud in the quiet evening. He paused a moment after it had gone, waiting for the silence to feel comfortable again. Eventually, the sounds of traffic and distant crowds began to settle back in around him. He approached the next house, and a dog barked behind the door.

He was back into his stride now, a few houses from the end of the street.

The barking stopped and the door opened. “Get off my goddam porch before I set the dog on you!” shouted an old woman, silhouetted against the lights of the house. “I don’t want any more bleedin’ pizza leaflets. I’m lactose intolerant!”

Jacob smiled. He would take a break after this. Get a coke from the corner shop, maybe. Perhaps even a hot dog to fuel him for the rest of the shift, certainly not a pizza – he ate enough of those when he worked in the store.


Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing

Friday Fictioneers – 708 Fulton

Another story for the Fictioneers, thanks to Rochelle’s prompt. I’ll keep this quick; I hear Sebastian stirring!


708 Fulton

He was staring so hard, he thought the glass might crack. It was there, just like yesterday, just like every day since he’d started coming to this cafe: a stained glass window depicting sunshine and a steaming mug of the black stuff.

But today, there were words: 708 Fulton. An address, perhaps? Or an army squadron? An old-fashioned English telephone number? He couldn’t escape the feeling that it was put there for him to see.

He sipped at his coffee and stared. Then an idea formed in his head. He put down the mug and walked out into the sunshine.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Friday Fictioneers – Tisn’t the Season

I’m delighted to be able to post another Friday Fiction story today. I missed InMon yesterday and if I get chance I’ll catch that up later, but for now, Rochelle’s picture is below and the links to other stories are on her site. Your comments on my response are welcome, as ever.

And at the risk of sounding Scrooge-like, it’s still November, so as far as I’m concerned, the title is particularly apt. Bah, humbug!


‘Tisn’t the Season

They appeared overnight: a light frosting of lights around the eaves and gables of homes, shops and temples. In the twilight hours of dawn, walking the quiet streets to work, I marvelled at their beauty and wondered whether the City had suddenly found some unspent budget for Christmas lights in June.

The local newspapers sported their usual split, with half decrying the waste and half expounding the benefits of adding a little sparkle. But when the journalists interviewed councillors, they were met with confusion and denials. Noone knew where the lights had come from.

And then they began to fall.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Novel Planning #4 – Planning Backwards

This is one type of planning I’ve never done, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work well for certain types of novel. For example, take a story with a crucial final scene – a great reveal which pulls together all the rest of the book. I’m not just talking about the ending of any book here, but specific types. Think, for example, Hercule Poirot, pulling all the characters into the Drawing Room and revealing the murderer. Alternatively, think about a major twist, whereby we suddenly realise that the main character is dead, or is Keyser Soze, or whatever.

These sorts of story revolve so much around that final reveal, that it could be argued you need to write the reveal before you can do anything else. It’s not how Agatha Christie did it, but many crime writers certainly go into the story knowing exactly whodunnit, how and why, and if that’s how you work, then starting at the end might be a good outlining method for you.

Here’s how…

Step 1: The Solution

Work out, clearly, and with diagrams and research if necessary, exactly what the solution is, how and why it happened, and – crucially – why this wasn’t immediately apparent at the beginning. Who was hiding something? How much will you just be playing on readers’ expectations?

Step 2: The Reveal

Decide how you want to get the solution across to readers. Do you want to do something formulaic, like pulling all the characters into one room? Do you want to have a sleuth-type character work it out, or someone who comes in knowing nothing about the background and has it all explained to him at the end? Will you reveal the solution through action, conversation or exposition? Plan the reveal scene in detail – you might even want to write it out in full (bearing in mind it will need a substantial rewrite by the time you’ve finished the rest of the novel).

Step 3: The Clues

The best mystery novels, and the best plot twists, give the readers half a chance to solve it before the reveal. For some readers, this will give them a sense of achievement when they do, for others it will give them a sense of recognition and of having been dealt with fairly when they realise that they should have known all along, but didn’t. They will want to read back and pick out all the clues and sneaky pointers you left along the way, whcih they missed at the time.

Think about how you might set up clues to the solution throughout the novel. Things people might say which have a double meaning, descriptions which point towards the solution, etc.

Step 4: The Red Herrings

Having sorted out the pointers you’re going to give everyone to the RIGHT answer, think about the traps you’ll lay to take them away from it. How can you keep them guessing, make other solutions seem possible, and then at the last minute, impossible. In a murder mystery, this could be other suspects, or apparent attempts on the life of the murderer herself. It might also include a list of things you DON’T show but allow the reader to assume – if your narrator is in prison, for example, you might mention them getting up, meeting friends, lining up for lunch, but miss out the things which would place those activities in a cell block.

Step 5: The Beginning

Finally, you can work out where the story starts. For a story with a twist, this is going to be where you set up all the misunderstandings you rely on for the rest of the novel; in a murder mystery, it’s probably the discovery of a body, or pretty close to it. Although not always, you might have Poirot bumble through some preparations for Christmas and if you’re Agatha Christie, people will still read on and make their way to the murder scene!

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Friday Fiction – Breakout

It’s Friday again! And this is my 99th post, so I’m in a celebratory mood. I’ll have to think up something exciting and hundred-worthy to say on Monday. Watch this space!

In the meantime, here is the picture from Madison’s blog, courtesy this week of Amanda Grey. I hope you like what I did with it – sorry, probably a bit of artistic licence taken on the geography.


He’d been running for hours. The moor was undulating and rough – he’d already caught his feet in any number of rabbit holes, but none big enough to hide the box he carried, let alone his weary body.

The rundown shack glowed red in the light of the setting sun. Momentarily, it seemed his salvation, but he knew it was a trap. Standing proud and bold on the empty landscape, it would beckon his pursuers – the most obvious place to run. The box shifted in his hands. He couldn’t afford to stop. He turned and ran, towards the burning horizon.



Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Friday Fiction – The Lie of the Land

Thank you all for you kind wishes last week, it was very exciting to be able to finally share the news.

Madison has surpassed herself again with a gorgeous photograph – below. Check out her blog for other responses and comments (http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/rainbows/) My story is below. I’m not sure where it’s going this week; it sort of wrote itself, but I am quite tempted to press on and see where it goes next. So I might write a longer short story sometime next week. In the meantime, do let me know what you think of this opening by leaving a comment below!

The Lie of the Land

I have walked in these fields every day since I was a child. I know the trees and shrubs as well as I know my brothers; I know the undulations of the ground so well that I could navigate by them alone, with my eyes blindfolded or picked out by the jackdaws which whirl and cackle overhead.

I have walked in these fields every day since I was a child. But until today, I have never seen a clearing on the Mcguinty land. Now it is picked out by the tip of a rainbow, and I can see nothing else.




Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Friday Fictioneers – The Crater

Friday rolls around again and Madison (http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/blank-100-words/) has given us a new picture to wrestle with. I found this one a bit of a challenge – I stared at it for a long time before the answer came to me. If you’re interested in how I write these pieces, do check out Monday’s post on Muses and Methods (http://wp.me/p1PeVl-5E); I’d love to hear from other Fictioneers about how you approach this weekly challenge.

My contribution this week is below, as ever criticism and critique are most welcome.

The Crater

I’ve only seen trees as white and bare as that once before – floating in a pool near the sunken peak of Mount St Helens. I remember thinking how spooky it was that they were bright white, not blackened or charred as I’d expected.

Today, I saw them again. But not an entire landscape this time, just a small ring of them around a large hole.  The hole looked a little like a volcanic crater, but the geology was all wrong. This crater had been made from above, not below. And it’s my job to find whatever, or whoever, made it.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing