Saturday, November 9, 2013

Things That Go Bump in My Mind

I’m in the middle of writing Chocolate City Justice.  Actually, I was nearing the end, when I realized this mystery novel was missing a big something– a good mystery.

The book takes place during Hurricane Katrina, bringing my protagonist, Ryan Murphy, through the storm.  It also brings my entire cast into post-Katrina New Orleans, which is something I felt needed to be done.

The problem was when I planned the book, it was more about Ryan surviving Katrina, including drug dealers, bad cops, and the storm itself.  The mystery, however, wasn’t as well thought out as I had intended.

I did have a basic plot.  But basic plots are not my style and they definitely aren’t what the types of readers drawn to my type of writing would be looking for.  So I had to rethink, reformulate, re-outline, and revamp the entire plot.

Once I had a more involved plot and subplots, I realized I still didn’t have the suspects out there for the readers to contemplate.  I also hadn’t figured out how exactly Ryan solved the mystery, especially during the middle of a hurricane, stuck in a flooded out house with no electricity, no electronics, and all of her most prized personal belongings– everything she had taken in an attempt to evacuate– at the bottom of what would now be nicknamed Lake Gentilly.   
Gentilly is a New Orleans neighborhood where Lake Pontchartrain crashed through two canal breaches and flooded the houses. A lot of people think the flooding from Katrina was confined to the Ninth Ward– the area portrayed in the HBO Treme series and in just about every other Katrina-inspired movie and t.v. show.  
But the flooding in New Orleans was not confined to just one area of the city and wasn’t caused just by one levee breaking.  In Gentilly, which is where the University of New Orleans is located, the London Avenue Canal that pumped rain water into Lake Pontchartrain was breached in two different spots.   I used to live in this neighborhood, and the house I used to live in was raised four feet from the ground and still flooded to the 8-foot mark on the house. It is just a few blocks from the breach.

So taking all this into account, I had to figure out how to add some more suspects, put them earlier in the book when there was a better chance Ryan could at least partially solve the mystery before ending up in the storm, and then come up with a new twist for the ending.  The twist, to me, is the most important part of the entire book. 

So I’ve spent the last few weeks figuring out what needs to be added and what needs to be changed, and hopefully, now that I’m back on track, Chocolate City Justice will soon completely exit the dark recesses of my mind and inhabit a bookstore near you (or a page on Amazon.)

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