Today I’m pleased to welcome Virginia King to the blog. Virginia is the author of The First Lie, the first Selkie Moon mystery. Her latest novel, The Second Path was published on 20 May 2016. Virginia has also written a short ghost story, entitled Laying Ghosts, as a prequel to the Selkie Moon mysteries. Today Virginia has written a guest post about incendiaries in fiction.
The Champagne in the Freezer
How Writers Plant Incendiaries in their Novels
Novels and movies are full of ‘incendiaries’ – those early events that ‘explode’ later in the story: a look shared between a man and an out-of-bounds woman; a throwaway comment that hints at a secret. As these clues career towards their final detonation – often with a twist – they create suspense while the reader tries to predict what’s coming.
Beats and Consequences
In movies, ‘incendiaries’ are called ‘beats’ which lead to later ‘consequences’. Every tiny fragment has a purpose. Hitchcock was a master at this. Remember in Suspicion – every behaviour the wife observes convinces her that her husband is trying to kill her. The audience is carried along on a wave of escalating beats until the dramatic and unexpected consequence on the cliff.
In novels, writers can plan these beats or they can turn up as the story ‘writes itself’. Then a beat will niggle away at the author until a consequence turns up. The sleeping mind is good at making these unexpected connections.
That Champagne Bottle.
In my ghost story Laying Ghosts the main character Selkie Moon describes what happens when a bunch of people arrives at a beach house for the weekend:
“Hey Pollyanna,” Stork said when Rina greeted him. He bent to kiss her on the cheek then tried to move to her lips.
She pushed him away. “I’ve told you not to call me that.”
He laughed and winked at me, getting a steely look that matched Rina’s. Was there a collective noun for more than one creep? He shrugged, and conversation turned to squeezing their grog into the fridge, putting a bottle of champagne in the freezer, then opening packets of chips.
Putting the champagne in the freezer seemed like something Stork might do if it wasn’t very cold after their long drive. I had no outcome in mind for the champagne until a couple of hours later in the story when it had been forgotten (by the characters and the author!) and this beat suddenly created consequences. Big consequences. What if the shattering champagne generated a symbolic emotional explosion … with deadly results?
Doris the Shop Dummy
This process works with mini incendiaries. In Chapter One of my psychological mystery The First Lie, we discover that Selkie Moon is sharing a Waikiki flat with Wanda and her headless shop dummy, Doris:
‘A naked shop dummy sits on a chair at the end of Wanda’s bed, her plastic legs akimbo. Doris. For the first few weeks I kept jumping out of my skin every time I caught sight of her. Wanda has dressed her in a hula skirt and peppered her torso with nails like a woman in a Dali painting. She drapes her with anything from net bags to headbands to leis. Today Doris is wearing a straw hat even though she doesn’t have a head.’
Doris turned up because Wanda is a quirky art student, but unknown to me Doris was creating several beats that would create mini blasts later in the book:
1. In The First Lie, a Dali lithograph plays a deeply symbolic role, including the final scene. This reference to Doris being a Dali-style woman triggered this later consequence in my subconscious mind and created a connection that flows through the book.
2. In The Second Path, Doris appears unexpectedly in several dreams. One dream needed a French theme and I remembered a signpost I once saw in a French village. Two arrows pointed in opposite directions creating a humorous juxtaposition – one said PARIS, the other said TENNIS. The signs popped into my mind and with them another similar word: Doris. Serendipity at its finest. In the dream, the PARIS and DORIS signposts create a kind of ‘dream logic’.
3. In The First Lie and The Second Path, Doris and her ‘headless state’ act as symbols of deeper emotional issues running through both stories.
Your Favourite Incendiaries?
What’s the most surprising or innocuous explosive element you’ve encountered in a film or novel? Avoid spoilers unless it’s well-known.
A FREE Ghost Story
Discover the consequences triggered by the exploding champagne by downloading your free copy of Laying Ghosts – a modern 24-page haunted house story inspired by a Russian folktale and tangled up in a murder ballad dating back to the 1700s. It’s a standalone story but also the prequel to the Selkie Moon Mystery Series.
About the book:
“A rock ripped from the soil, a message scrawled in lipstick on the floor, a torn photo, a silver spoon … What do they all mean?
Only her subconscious knows.
When we last left Selkie Moon, she was running towards the source of her deepest primal fear: the sea. Now she finds herself naked on the beach, stunned that she has no memory of the past two weeks.
Recovering at a friend’s house, Selkie wakes up to discover a bizarre collection of items scattered across the floor. Items she apparently gathered in her sleep. Finding the ho’ohihi – the interconnectedness – between them will carry her around the globe, from Honolulu to Sydney to Paris. A dark fairy tale journey filled with fear and despair, laughter and hope, The Second Path has Selkie searching for her place in the world, in her relationships, and in herself.
Searching for home.”
Giveaway of The First Lie
“Someone is trying to kill you.
When Selkie Moon flees Sydney to start over in Hawaii, it’s to live life on her own terms. But Life has other plans. Though she tries to dismiss the warning as just another nightmare, it soon becomes apparent that someone, or something, is stalking her. Attacked by frightening visions and mysterious compulsions, she must piece together the fragmented clues before time runs out. Virginia King effortlessly blends funky creativity and deep spirituality – with a dash of Celtic folklore – to craft a story of one woman’s fight for truth, and her discovery that the lies we tell ourselves are the most dangerous of all.”
You could be one of ten lucky winners who will choose either a signed paperback or an audio book of The First Lie plus a $15 Amazon gift code. One grand prize winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift code. Enter here.