Saturday, August 19, 2006

How a Molotov Cocktail Found the WYSIWYG

In my novel, Festival Madness, the main character is back from the Burning Man Festival. A second murder has occured in Reno. The character, Emma, needs to tell Professor Lear, the former MIT faculty advisor to Emma's colleague and two of the murdered hackers about the murder. Lear knows a secret that Emma needs to find out to identify the murderer. He has been cagey about telling her anything. When he hears about the second murder, he tells her that he must think. They agree to meet in Cambridge.

I am a foodie and set way too many scenes over dinners in restaurants. Emma has already had lunch with Lear at Legal Seafood, so a meal meeting is out. I had thought they might to the walk across the Longfellow Bridge along the Esplanade and back over the Harvard Bridge and up past MIT. I needed a threat to Lear's life to keep the action moving (rather than just have characters talking). First thought was he is pushed down the stairs of the subway, the Red line, upon saying goodbye to Emma. Problems: would she even know? The murderer is familiar to her, and sure wouldn't want to be seen. But she needs to be there when it happens. Not good.

Next I thought maybe something could happen while they were walking. But what? Skateboard crashes into him? But she knows (but doesn't know she knows) the killer. Poison dart? Too complicated. Too crazy. Too unlikely. Arrrgh!
Wait. The river. Lear has a boat. the WYSIWYG . After all, he has made big bucks on high tech consulting fees. It's too hot to walk anyhow (early September heat wave). Lear invites Emma onto the boat for a heart-to-heart. Where no one can overhear. What could happen on the boat? Someone has been following Lear (or Emma). Sees them together, freaks out, decides two more dead bodies are better than one, tosses a Molotov cocktail (easy to make, easy to disguise until the last moment) -can do big damage to a boat or better yet, the whole marina.

Big excitement but no one hurt. Lear has chest pains and goes to the hospital. Emma meets old boyfriend Cambridge cop who shows up. Now she can ask him to find out stuff that only the law would know and pass it to her. She will know both she and Lear are targeted. Ups the suspense. Also, big surprise for reader who is finding out cool stuff and them boom! Literally boom.

Took me several days with Significant Other's help to figure this out. Half of writing is not writing but thinking. Then writing the scene. At first I forgot to describe the marina, the weather, the river, just got down to business. Then I fleshed the scene out. Kept adding details to bring the reader into the scene. Done for now. Went over the whole thing 4-5 times. Ready for next scene. Mass General late at night and the attendant craziness.

A little romantic suspense, a lot of danger. Someone once wrote whenever things get dull, have a man with a gun come thru the door. How's about a man with a Molotov cocktail?

To the barricades!


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