We love mystery!

Bonus: Clued In Writes a Mystery

Brook and Sarah are about to start writing a traditional mystery together. In this bonus episode, they brainstorm ideas and review survey results from listeners and newsletter subscribers who weighed in on the sleuth’s age and the mystery setting. Members of the Clued in Cartel will have the opportunity to read what they write as they write it. Joining the Cartel costs as little as $12/year (USD). To learn more, visit https://cluedinmystery.com/clued-in-cartel/.

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This transcript is generated by a computer and there may be some mis-spellings and strange punctuation. We try to catch these before posting, but some things slip through.

SarahWelcome to a Clued in Bonus episode I’m Sarah.
BrookAnd I’m Brook and we both love mystery.
SarahHi, Brook.
BrookHi, Sarah. So, it’s time to start talking about this write with us, write along… we we really don’t even have a name for this project yet. So, this is a planning day for us.
SarahAbsolutely. And we thought we would record it so, that um, our listeners and hopefully our readers can get a sense of what this process is like for us.
BrookExactly. This is brand new. We’ve never done it before. So, we’re just like getting real with everyone and you get to see the process from the very beginning and then read along with us as we write this mystery together.
SarahThat’s right. And I don’t know that we will record all of our planning sessions. But I think subscribers to the Cartel can expect to hear at least a couple of these as we go along and of course they’ll be able to read what we write as we write it. So, they’ll get to see the raw first draft, which is often very messy.
BrookMessy. Maybe you know even a little confusing. But it will be fun. And Cartel members, although we may not record all of this type of content as we go along, it’s kind of a big experiment they will at least be getting regular updates on how the process is going, whether that’s in our Substack newsletter or whatever format, we will definitely keep them updated and probably be asking for some advice as we’ve already done in a survey.
SarahThat’s right. We asked our listeners and social media followers and our respective newsletter subscribers. We asked them to weigh in on the setting whether it was going to be urban or rural and the demographic of our sleuth.
BrookWe were so happy: 129 responses so far. So, thank you everybody for taking the survey and the results are in. 74 percent of you preferred like a small rural town setting and 62 percent of you wanted that middle age like maybe recently empty nester sleuth. So, I guess that’s what we’re doing, Sarah.
SarahOk, well, um I am surprised that the numbers were so high for the rural small-town sleuth. I thought it might be fun to write an urban setting. But maybe we can do that for the next one, Brook. Because I hope that this isn’t the the only time that that we do this. But you know ask me in a few months I may say never again.
BrookWe will wait and see. I agree. So, everyone we brainstormed a little bit on each of those settings of some general ideas before we put it out to survey. And I will tell you that the like the urban setting, we’re thinking of like an apartment building so you still get like the insular community, and it would be fun. So, if you get that opportunity in the future know that we have some ideas up our sleeves.
SarahBut for this one we will write in a small rural community. Might have to lean on you a little bit, Brook for input on that because I have spent most of my life living in an urban center.
BrookYeah, we’re very separate that way, right? We we did a social media post recently if you guys caught it where I asked who’s the city mouse and who’s the country mouse. And I am the country mouse. I got you covered because this is all I’ve known, Sarah.
SarahI will say like my extended family is from a small a couple of small communities and I remember as a child spending time in those communities and kind of loving the freedom that I had to kind of wander around because the town was very, very small. Everybody knew everybody. I could um go to the library and borrow books just using my mom’s name as the as the borrower.
BrookAh I love that.
SarahEven though she hadn’t lived in the town for some time but you know, um, my grandmother was still there and I think it’ll be really fun to write about.
BrookI do too and that everybody knowing everyone else is you know the thing that’s going to lend itself really good to our quaint traditional mystery. So, what are some ideas that you have about the small-town setting, Sarah do you have anything in mind?
SarahOne question would be whether what the proximity to the next major center is like are we really isolated or are we 30 minutes to ah you know bigger amenities and more people?
BrookYeah, that’s a good question.
SarahWhich, I think would help us determine what kind of a role if any ah police formal investigation would have.
BrookYeah that’s a great point when I think of it I think of that second scenario that you mentioned where you know it might be thirty forty five minutes, but you know there’s you know a shopping center and things like that. I think it also gives us some opportunity like if we were going to continue this and write more than one that gives you just a bit of a larger world to be able to carry out a series. Always want to leave that door open.
SarahYeah, definitely. That’s a great point. And that’s probably far enough away that there might be um, say one or two police officers who may or may not live in the town but have kind of the town as part of their…
BrookTheir jurisdiction. Oh, I like that that they’re not there all the time. I really enjoy that.
SarahAnd maybe our sleuth is like “well, I have to take it on myself while you’re in you know the next town over or whatever.” And we could maybe even have I don’t know something else happen that kind of pulls the police in a couple of different directions but they can’t spend all of their time investigating this.
BrookI like that idea a lot. And, I know when we were doing just our very vague general brainstorming to give the two choices of locations we talked about perhaps this little town is sort of known for something and one idea we said was maybe ah, a literature festival like maybe it’s the town where a famous author you know was was born or had lived and so now this town has kind of built themselves around this. So, I was wondering if maybe we come up with a fictional famous author patterned after you know are they an Agatha Christie type are they a famous romance author or something and then this place has you know festivals and even their shops are kind of themed like you know literary.
SarahI like I like that idea.And it might be interesting if the author that this town is kind of built around isn’t a mystery author.
BrookI agree I think it might get too. Um, like it might get over the top if it’s a murder mystery in a murder mystery town. Feels a lot.
SarahYeah, yeah, it does it does it does feel a lot. I mean you could get a bit meta. But if it was yeah like if it was a a romance author and the town, maybe it’s around Valentine’s Day or something and the town has this big celebration and you come to the town to find love or whatever, right? That could be a way to do it. I do like the idea of the town having some kind of theme, right?
SarahOne other theme that I’d thought of was like a gardening town, right? Where everybody is super into into gardens and and you know then you’ve got some tools at your disposal that um may may come into play.
BrookMaybe there’s a like a nursery or a sort of some reason that it’s like that has become the center because they do a lot of agriculture or something like that.
SarahYeah, or like a big flower festival.
BrookYes, and then they have festivals.
SarahSo, yeah, yeah, so, yeah, we’ll have to maybe nail down what that what that theme is. I’m not sure which one I’m leaning towards more the um author or the yeah agricultural flower town.
BrookI know I think we need to think about it. They both have their perks. Especially since I think the kind of the gardening town makes sense kind of goes well with the first thing we said where it’s you know, just adjacent to a large city. But it just makes it gives it that very country like just little um, you know enclave feel. So, yeah, so, we’ll kick that around a little more.
SarahYeah, yeah. And so for our sleuth. Empty nester. I was thinking more about someone who maybe returns home to look after an ailing parent. And you know so they grew up in the town but they have been away for a little bit. Um and the parent. We would have to handle this really delicately. But if the parent had dementia or something that parent is an unreliable narrator, right? So, I don’t know if I don’t know how that would work. But there could be some kind of neighborhood tensions that have developed over the last little bit. Maybe as this parent’s health has declined um and you know I know there can be some personality changes that come with dementia. And you know maybe some tension as a result of that right and arguments with neighbors. I was envisioning that it’s a neighbor who dies and maybe the parent is.
Brook… has had some conflicts with them. I like that you know when it goes really well with what I had in my head, Sarah because like when I started thinking about okay, empty nester I thought okay is she recently, I feel like she’s a single person whether or not she was you know widowed in an earlier part of her life or she’s been through a divorce. Whatever she’s single but that you know okay now she’s an empty nester. What’s she going to do with the next part of her life and I like the idea of well you know, Mom really needs help and so, I think I’ll go home. Time to start the new chapter. She needs me to come and um and be with her and and help her and so, that’s the impetus to you know make this change and go to a new place.
BrookOne of the comments in our survey suggested that the sleuth’s job like um, you know if you get the impression that she has retired I guess in which we still need to ascertain that because empty nester could be you know even 45 or 50, depending on when you had your children. But the comment was um if her old jobs could give her some skills to then solve mysteries. And I think that’s an important thing to have um is a reason why she’s going to be good at this.
SarahYeah, no I I agree. Um and I also agree with your earlier point I would probably put the age of this sluice I would probably put the age of this sleuth younger than retirement age, 40s or 50s. And as you say, if you know the family was started quite young then it wouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility for someone in their late forties to be an empty nester.
BrookI think that’s a really nice age to make this sleuth because um it it is ah a bridge age right? That big change that you’re having in your life. And I think it’s still going to draw our readers who are have already been through that. Um I think it’s still close enough for them to relate to it.
SarahAnd I think we should just confirm that we’re gonna have a female rather than a male sleuth.
BrookWe keep saying “she.” I feel the most comfortable writing a female sleuth and I think that that is the preference in this genre, don’t you, Sarah?
SarahI think it’s the overwhelming majority is female sleuths but the book that I’m reading right now has a male sleuth and I think that’s why I wanted to just confirm that that’s that’s what we were doing.
BrookI wonder if the parent that she goes home to take care of should be a father rather than a mother, though. So, it’s not like completely female centric.
SarahYeah I like that.
BrookAnd maybe she’s going to end up working out some relationship issues that she’s had with her dad over the years.
SarahYeah, this is a good opportunity to do that right? And and um, if it turns out that the dad does have dementia then she could be feeling a little bit of um time is slipping away for her to have that resolution.
BrookYeah I really like that. Yeah I see a lot of character development opportunities in that ah scenario.
SarahTotally totally? Yeah.
BrookSo, what could we if she’s in her mid-to-late 40s, she’s probably still working or has just she needs to have some sort of employment or.
SarahI think yeah, she does. Yeah I I would think so. What could it be that would afford some legitimate investigative skills, but also afford the flexibility to be moving home and or you know what it could be that she’s not moving home. She could not have grown up in that town, right? It could be where her parents retired.
BrookI like that and they would retire to this quaint little touristy town because they love to garden and or whichever it is. They’re like oh we love that place. That’s where we’re going to retire. Nice ok.
SarahYeah, yeah, so, she maybe doesn’t have all of she’s got her parent’s background of who all of the the characters of the town are but hasn’t and and maybe some of that is not consistent with what her experience ends up being, right.
BrookEspecially if we have dad being an unreliable narrator. She could get some misinformation which could be really fun. Yeah.
BrookSo, what are some things that you can do I mean so she could have her own business right? What are some things that she could do as a self-employed person and just move her service to this new little town.
SarahWell, she could be a writer or an editor. She could be like a small artisan. So, whether it’s something I got to think of something that’s portable, right?
BrookPhotographer. It’s not really a– is that a job anymore?
SarahI don’t know and I don’t know if you would how well you would be able to do that from the town unless it meant she was traveling regularly into the into the bigger center but then she doesn’t get to do all the investigating that she wants to do right?
SarahBut it could be, I don’t I’m just thinking like she’s got an Etsy shop and she sells…
BrookOh yeah, an online business. Okay, she has an online business. And let’s be real here. This is our world and she can be a highly successful Etsy shop owner selling you know some obscure thing. She can gain that success because we give that to her even if in the real world it’s really really hard to make a living doing that thing.
SarahYeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely absolutely. We’ve got some creative liberty here. Um, ah okay, we have to give this some thought but what what would give her the skills to be a good investigator.
BrookI do like the idea that she’s an editor because that is—we’ve worked with editors, Sarah. They have to be so detail-oriented and to you know, especially somebody who looks at plotlines and does developmental editing I think about the skills that it requires and you know they’re basically taking this story apart and putting it back together in a sense and that would be a really great investigator too.
SarahI think so, and I haven’t come across a lot of books that feature an editor as the sleuth loads with an author is sleuth, right.
BrookYeah, and she might not even be. We’ll have to decide what type of work she edits does she edit nonfiction does she edit fiction does she work as an editor for you know like various publications so that she has different clients. I think there’s a lot of different directions. We could take that.
SarahYeah, yeah, yeah, the only editor as sleuth that I can think of is um, the character in The Magpie Murders and the um, it’s not The Magpie Murders. It’s Magpie Murders, right?
BrookNo no the.
SarahAnd I can’t remember the name of the the sleuth right now. But yeah she I mean there there have been books around the publishing industry right? But yeah someone who’s maybe she’s a freelance editor. That would give her you know, then it wouldn’t really matter where she was doing that work from and she can comfortably move to her parents retirement town.
BrookYeah I like that ah idea and um and the idea of being a freelance editor potentially opens up maybe some um mini mysteries. Or like ah another plotline because she could discover something in her work that you know leads to a sort of mystery to solve.
SarahUm, yeah, and and as you say like if she’s freelance then she maybe has worked on a lot of different manuscripts and there may have been something that she’s learned from a past editing job that she can draw on, right. Some fact. Some thing that she knows.
BrookOk, funny aside and I don’t think our friend Lori Briley would mind me mentioning this. Lori has been on the show before and she writes middle grade mysteries but Lori also doesn’t edit but she does freelance writing.
BrookAnd one of the magazines she writes for is a nut magazine So, there could be some sort of obscure detail that these people know about because of this work they’ve done. Like yeah, I love that.
SarahOk, ok. So, she’s an editor has moved to the town where her parents retired her mother has died her father is his health is ailing.
SarahAnd there’s some, I don’t think we’ve quite landed on what the hook for the town is, but there’s some draw some sort of festival that brings people to the town that everybody gets into um as as part of this festival, right? Whether it’s gardening or our earlier idea. You know if it was an author, there could be some tension between the editor and the author if the author like comes to the town right? I don’t know.
BrookBecause they still want to be kind of the big shot literary person and you know our editor character is kind of, maybe she has a little notoriety too. I don’t know we’ll have to play with that.
SarahOr what if she was reading one of his books and noticed that there was something wrong.
BrookAnd that maybe that happened in the past. Maybe she like outed him for something in the past when she did a job for him.
SarahYeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, she could be a bit of a like ah a bit aggressive in her demeanor, right?
BrookAnd that is that’s another opportunity for like a character arc where she over the course of the story kind of softens. Okay.
SarahYeah, yeah, she could be super confident in herself and like think she’s never wrong right?
SarahBecause I think editors need to be very confident in the in the work that they’re doing.
BrookYes, and it and they have to quite honestly, I would have a terrible time doing it because they have to take someone’s baby and give them really bad news about it. So, they have to be really willing to you know, point out flaws.
SarahI don’t think she would last very long if she didn’t do that in a gentle way. But um, maybe this was one of her first clients was this author and he’s never kind of forgiven her for that for the harsh words that she had um that she had shared. And maybe they need to have a bit of a confrontation. I don’t know that they need to have a romance but they need to have some sort of like, “yeah, okay, we can be friends”.
BrookI think that is an opportunity for the the quote unquote romance line you know, sometimes in things that I’ve written. It’s like a friend-mance if you want to call it that where they’re bitter enemies. But then, you know over the course of the story, they become friends. And it gives I think the story the same type of push and pull that a romance line does. But I will tell you, Sarah a couple of the comments in our survey said some flirting or a little bit of light romance wouldn’t be bad. So, I think we leave that door open.
SarahOk, ok, yeah, we can do that. I feel like I’m pretty comfortable with kind of where we’re starting this out. Any other comments that came through that you think we should be thinking about?
BrookSeveral people mentioned that they would like there to be a pet. And now that we’ve established that she’s going to her dad’s home, I wonder if it would be fun that dad has this pet that our sleuth really does not like. She’s not ah, pet person. She doesn’t want to have a pet except of course we know because this is this kind of mystery that she will come to love the pet but it could take a while. And but dad of course loves this whatever it is. We have to come up with what kind of animal.
SarahI like it. Yeah I think that’s I think that’s great. A little enemies-to-lovers with the pet.
BrookWe’ve got a couple opportunities for that. Yeah and I will say you know Sarah’s comment she said you know I feel pretty good about where we’re at and um, you know this is kind of a peek behind the scenes obviously and, Sarah and I are both what’s considered discovery writers. So, as long as we have some waypoints, so to speak, um and then of course the general structure of the way a mystery happens. We just kind of dive in and start writing and seeing what happens.
SarahYeah. So, I mean we haven’t really talked about what the mystery is going to be, but I—to your point, Brook—feel like I’ve got enough I’ve got a good enough picture of the character and this situation I feel like I could probably start. But I do like to have a sense of what that where the story is going. So, what is that mystery? And I think I mentioned before this. So, it’s a neighbor that dies, I was thinking right? And so the dad has had a conflict with the neighbor. We could have a couple of other people having had some um you know some sort of whether it’s a argument about his flowers encroaching over on another neighbor’s or having copied another neighbor’s design or something like that right? If we’re doing the if we’re doing the garden themed town.
SarahI think I have enough to write some sort of mystery.
BrookAnd I feel good about like nailing down. Okay, the victim is going to be the neighbor. Because once we know the victim then we can start building around like who the other suspects are and what everybody’s motives were.
SarahYeah, and having the victim of as the neighbor gives the sleuth the reason for why she would be investigating, right?
BrookA hundred percent yep.
SarahBecause if if her father is kind of the main suspect, obviously she wants to clear his name.
BrookFor sure. And then that introduces her into the world of sleuthing. And we’ll see if maybe I shouldn’t say the next book before we even get this book written, but I guess that’s where my mind went we have the opportunity.
SarahWell I think, Brook this is going to be fun. I think our next step is to start getting some words down.
BrookDefinitely and so, everyone if this has whet your appetite and you’d like to find out more about this ah project and follow along with us then please consider becoming a member of the Cartel we have all the information out on our website and we’ll also leave a link in social media so that you can can find us. And thanks for listening today to Clued in Mystery. I’m Brook.
SarahAnd I’m Sarah and we both love mystery.