Destined to write whendunnits instead of whodunnits.


THE MUSE wasn’t particularly interested in my problem. But then, he seldom was.

I was writing.

He was sleeping.

I was killing the bad guys.

He was killing time.

I was trying to finish the last chapter.

The Muse already knew how it ended.

He just hadn’t told me.

I pushed away from the Mac and motioned for him to come sit on my shoulder.

He preferred the easy chair.

The Muse didn’t do much whispering anymore.

“I’ve got a mystery,” I said.

“I have one, too,” he said.

“What is yours?” I asked.

“The only mystery I have,” the Muse said,” is why you spend so much time writing.”

I stared into the early morning darkness of my backyard and thought it over.

What he said made a lot of sense.

I shrugged.

“Then I guess I have two mysteries,” I said.

“Which one do you want to work on first?” he asked.

“The first one.”

“Which is?”

“I like to write mysteries.”

“It’s a somewhat honorable profession.”

“But I don’t think I’m writing mysteries,” I said.

“They’re not hard,” he said. “You write about a dastardly crime and let the sleuth, detective, shamus, or private eye spend the next two hundred pages trying to find out who did it.”

“That’s one of the problems,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“I don’t have a sleuth, detective, shamus, or private eye in the novel.”

“Who do you have?” the Muse asked.

“He’s a man who may or may not have worked for the government,” I said, “He was involved in the early-day experiments of mind control with electric shocks, and they keep erasing his mind.”

“Is he a tough guy?

“Tough enough.”

“He’ll do,” the Muse said.

“That brings me to my next problem,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“There may be a dastardly crime committed,” I said, “but everybody knows who did it. Who did it is not a secret.”

“So you don’t have a whodunit?”

“I don’t.”

The Muse paused and leaned back in the big easy chair. “Do your readers know how he did it?” he asked.

“They do.”

“Do they know why he did it?”

I nodded.

The Muse thought some more, then asked, “What is the most important and captivating ingredient in your novel?” he asked.

“The time period,” I said.

“When does it take place?”

“The late 1930s and 1940s,” I said. “A mad man is running loose in Europe. America is at war. There are rumors that some fools are developing an Atomic bomb that may be capable of burning the whole planet, but who will get it first – The Russians, Hitler, or the United States? It’s the beginning of the Cold war before anyone knew it was cold.”

The Muse nodded.

“Then that’s your answer,” he said.

“What is?” I asked.

“You don’t write whodunnits,” he said.

“I don’t.”

He grinned.

“No,” he said. “You write whendunnits.”

“Is there such a thing?”

He shrugged. “There is now,” he said.

He felt better about it than I did.

I still had a chapter to write.

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