Well, THAT didn’t quite go as planned…again!
The Hanged Man was a difficult story to write. Partly because the plot painted me into a corner (I blame the plot, not myself), and partly because, although it was started and set in July, the sequence of events I’m living as I get near retiring from the Navy in just 15 days has driven me crazy.
This is part of the writer’s craft, though. You set up a plot, get it moving, and WHAMO! A minor detail upends you and you have to account for it. And the fact that most ceiling fans won’t hold a full grown adult’s weight if they’re dropped from it is a bit of a problem I had to overcome.
The obvious solution was that the killer held the victim up and slowly lowered him. But…how could the killer convincingly over power the victim and then gently lower him to slowly strangle to death?
And so, as so often happens in murder mysteries, another victim was needed. But the death of MC3 Morgan also upped the stakes and make Gordon Grey’s rampage hit closer to home. Grey is no longer targeting just random people, he is, by accident or design (who is to say) starting to target people closer to Shepherd.
As with the previous four this story was published in real time. You saw it as I drafted it. Flaws, plot holes, typoes…they’re all there in sight for you as I continue to push through this project in real-time literary performance art.
It was a very interesting challenge too. Of course there is no “U.S. Atlantic Fleet” headquartered on Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads (NSA Hampton Roads). Oh, NSA Hampton Roads exists, but its real configuration is nothing like my version. Even so, the challenge of getting a murderer—a known murderer—into a highly secure building (much less the barracks) was a fun one to tackle. And then, when I realized I could tie this story to one of my other favorite shows (“Sherlock”), well, the fun was doubled!
I am also enjoying the challenge of creating a situation where it is logical and sensible that Isaac Shepherd and Abraham Gray are able to start closing in on Gordon Grey for a confrontation. It’s not too hard to figure out that the final story in this series of seven mysteries will contain that confrontation and Grey’s untimely death. Or maybe it’s Gray who dies?
Or no one? Maybe Grey gets away?
I’m not telling. Not until the seventh story!
Interestingly, despite the stress of trying to sell my house, prepare to move, search for and land a new job, and just make the transition in identity from active duty to retiree, the ideas keep coming. I actually started story six, The Murder Game, while still finishing The Hanged Man. The Murder Game is going to be a bit of a different story. Every story so far has seen Isaac Shepherd working with an NCIS agent (Abraham Gray in the present, Veronica Bale in the past). I want to see what he can do when stranded in an isolated situation with a small group of people, no communications, and a slightly inconvenient dead body lying around.
Sometimes you do write yourself into a corner, but that doesn’t mean you scrap the whole story and start over. Step back and see if that “corner” can’t be turned to your advantage. You just might be surprised! The Hanged Man wouldn’t have been half as much fun or had near the wallop it did if I hadn’t ended up in the corner I did.
The reality of physics and ceiling fan ended up turning a throw-away character into a major plot point, and that gave the story a depth it would have been missing otherwise.