Last year, seven members of Ekphrasis participated in the Three-Day Novel Contest. Four of us went away to a cabin in the woods, while the others worked from home. We shared spiritual solidarity with others who were working far away. At the cabin, we wrote over 100,000 words total! Jeff H and Stephanie H each pounded out a complete draft of a novella in the three days! Nobody at the cabin finished the whole novel in a weekend, but Sharon G finished hers in November and I finished mine in January. The others are doing really well, too.
So now it’s nearly time for the next 3DNC madness. We don’t know who will meet where, exactly, but other plans are proceeding apace. I’ve been plotting for months. Mine is going to be a murder mystery entitled Ready-Made Grave. I needed to do a whole lot more planning that I did for my story last year, The Four Senses, because even though that had a complex, embedded-narrative structure, at least it was basically one person’s linear story. A murder mystery is different: I need to know where everyone was, at every moment, all the time.
So I started out with a basic premise: Thirteen very eccentric, eclectic, memorable members of an artists’ group (sound familiar?) gather for an inspirational day outing at a cemetery. Right? Right. Throughout the day, they have adventures both artistic and interpersonal, until one of them dies a terrible death. The others find themselves locked in, and they spend the night in a mausoleum interrogating one another and trying to figure out whodunnit.
Doesn’t that sound fun?
After inventing the premise, I had to develop the characters. I bought a beautiful Moleskine and devoted two pages to each of my thirteen eccentrics. Here they are, in brief:
1. Kyrksen Royall — singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, composer, film director, actor.
2. Chloë Crawford — dancer
3. Axel Hirsch — video-game designer
4. Leo Phillipides — sculptor and architect
5. Aubrey Romano El-Hirsi — photographer and fashion designer
6. Errol Wanless — Australian adventurer and travel writer
7. Greg Adamson — saxophone player
8. Fay Winterville — singer-songwriter, Goth model
9. Vera Oka-Shan — violinist
10. Crofton Fishburne — spoken word / slam poet, preacher
11. Zita Soto — memoir writer, ghost writer, painter
12. Keela Conwell — actress, model, guy magnet
13. Dorcas J. Wesley — taxidermist.
There’s the cast. The list of suspects (well, all but one).
Then I had to chart out where they were and what they were doing all day long. That’s where the post-it notes came in. I had to keep moving them around as I realized I had one person in two places at once, one person nowhere, somebody doing nothing for hours on end, and so forth. I’ve almost got it. I have one character with a few blank hours yet, which means not that I have to invent something for him to do, but that I haven’t developed his character trajectory fully enough yet. It’s good, this plotting. Now for the writing!