Today I turn the blog over to fellow writer Caren Rich, who writes mystery/suspense with a Southern flair. Caren, take it away…
An onion has a center, the shoot, and surrounding layers. Writing is a lot like an onion.
The shoot is the original idea. The spark that sets you down the path. The layers are the characters, back story, dialogue, and location. There are more elements that fall into the layer category, but this gives you an idea.
The “shoot” for Mystic Brew started at Starbucks. Yes, the chain coffee shop. I was sitting at this little table, drinking my mocha, and doodling on a napkin. Each time the door opened I looked up. Why? I’m a writer, it’s what I do. As I sat there, observing, a scene started to play out in my mind. An odd writer, too scared to live suddenly interrupted by a loud stranger. Hmmm. That’s a start. I looked around the room and imagined the lives of the patrons. Someone had to have an interesting story. If not, I can always make one up.
I thought about the differences between my two characters. Total opposites. Why would a stranger start talking to the weird writer in the corner? Didn’t her mother tell her not to talk to strangers? Hmmm. That’s when the story took a dark turn.
I pulled a handful of napkins from the dispenser and started frantically writing the basic story for Mystic Brew. Yes, it was actually written on napkins. I should send Starbucks a thank you letter. I took it home and typed up the first rough draft. What about the layers?
There’s an important part of every story. It usually lurks in the background, quietly. Location. Just like real estate, location is important. Real or imagined. Tolkien could have set the location for LOTR anywhere. But I doubt it would have had the same impact if the location was England. Anne Rice could have picked any city to be the home of her famous Vampire series. But New Orleans adds extra layers other cities don’t have. I can’t see Lestat lurking around a Miami cemetery.
I wanted a distinctive location for Mystic Brew. I wanted Mobile to be the location and I wanted to bring in some of the more unusual aspects of the city. Like New Orleans, it has a rich French and Spanish history, and Mardi Gras. The large square downtown with manic squirrels, the trees dripping with Mardi Gras beads, the beautiful iron gates, all of those symbolize Mobile.
But what about the coffee shop? I didn’t want the primary location to be a chain. I went back to the feeling of the downtown area and created a coffee shop that would fit in perfectly next to Bienville Square. The Jester, was both a nod to Mardi Gras and an element of foreshadowing. They give me the creeps. I’m not sure, but I think he comes to life when the coffee shop closes.
Including little bits and pieces of the area, also adds a ring of truth. I could have created a city or used the downtown of any city, but I think using aspects of Mobile added texture to it.
The layers work with the shoot to create a world with flavor and depth- like an onion.
Don’t talk to strangers!
Mystic Brew is a dark and twisted tale of friendship, secrets, and coffee.
Jane, a socially awkward writer, watches the world from the safety of the back corner at the Mystic Brew Coffee Shop.
A chance meeting, with vivacious redhead Margo, forces Jane out of her shell and into the world around her.
What secret is Jane hiding? Will Margo succeed in bringing Jane into the light? Or will the ghosts reemerge?
Caren Rich grew up in a small town in Alabama. The swamps and bayous have fueled her imagination and inspired her writing. Her short stories may cross genres but they are rooted in the history and culture of the South. Caren’s favorite holiday is Christmas, which has greatly influenced her writing. She enjoys reading mysteries, fantasy, and always makes time for a good fairy tale. Her favorite super hero is Rogue from the X-Men. She lives on the coast with her husband and two daughters. All three are a constant source of inspiration. She also has an imaginary pet gator named Roux.
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