The whole world’s a mystery awaiting an author

Somewhere in the story, I like to introduce readers to the unknown, the unexplained, and, most of all, the unexpected.

The two most important words to remember when writing a novel are these:

The first word is imagination.

And the second word is imagination.

First, you must have the imagination it takes to conjure up a great story filled with gut-wrenching conflicts, nerve-rattling tension, and unforgettable characters.

That comes from deep within the recesses of your own brain, your own experiences, your own quest to find the mysteries that surround our past, our present, and our future.

And, believe me, any genre – from romance and mainstream fiction to thrillers, sci-fi, and historical fiction – has its share of mysteries and secrets.

Secondly, you must have the ability to take the story that you have built down in the hollows of your own psyche and transfer it into the imagination of your readers.

They have to believe in the story, the plot, and the characters as strongly as you do. If you are afraid to write the next scene, then they are probably just as afraid to read it. You have to make sure that your imagination crawls inside their imagination, and when it does, the magic of genuine storytelling begins to happen.

I never write unless I have a good mystery tucked away.

It may not have anything to do with the main plot.

It may be a subplot or even a lesser plot.

But somewhere in the story, I like to introduce readers to the unknown, the unexplained, and, most of all, the unexpected. I have no idea when I’ll use it or why I’ll use it. But, for some reason, the mystery feels like it belongs.

An early image of my hometown, the boom town of Kilgore, Texas.

In Bad Side of a Wicked Moon, I was writing a romance about a stranger and a beautiful widow who discovered oil on barren land to break the back of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

But all of a sudden, a man is found hanging from the crown of an oil derrick.

The sheriff is found shot to death beside the well he is drilling.

Who did it?

I didn’t know.

It wasn’t until page 356 that I finally found out.

Until then, I was writing on faith alone and trusting that my imagination would somehow work it out.


I had no idea.

But out of the blue and when it’s least expected, the brain always seems to spill out the answer you’ve been waiting for. When it does, I always feel like I’ve found the one lone nugget in a pile of mud, and all of the digging was worth it.

I’ve finally figured out what happened.

That’s the beauty of a mystery, and the world is filled with good mysteries. Read the front page of any newspaper. Thumb through the pages of any magazine. Watch the History or Discovery channel on television.

They are packed to the brim with mysteries.

Why did the Anasazi people vanish from the earth?

What happened to the Rembrandt stolen from a London art museum?

What caused the disappearance of an old sailing ship in the North Sea?

How was the baby stolen from an upstairs bedroom window?

Who smuggled the secrets out of the National Security Agency? Why did somebody hack into the CIA computers?

Why can’t they find any evidence against a man who has been widowed four times by women younger than he?

In his will, the old man said he possessed a secret that would change the world. Why did he take to his grave?

Great books have always been built around the resolution of a simple mystery.

Maybe more.

A writer’s mind and imagination can take the story in any direction it chooses. All you have to do is mix a few lies with a handful truth ripped from the headlines and come up with the final answer no one expects or can predict. It has been a winning formula in literature for a long time.

Please click HERE to find my latest mystery, Bad Side of a Wicked Moon, on Amazon.

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  • ‘If you are afraid to write the next scene, then they are probably just as afraid to read it.’

    Thanks for that, Caleb. It is frightening to create dark things from the subliminal ether of our minds – I do hope it will cause the right kind of emotional distress in my readers.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Alicia, if you are afraid to write the next scene, then it’s probably a scene that won’t be soon forgotten. If the writer is afraid, the reader is afraid. And you have the talent to make your readers feel exactly the way you do in a scene.

      • I’m also afraid of what people will think of me for writing these scenes, but there’s no way around them, and there’s a reason they were woven into the tapestry in the first place. I can’t wimp out now, just because they’re making me go places I never visit in real life.

        I just want to do them justice.

        • Caleb Pirtle

          For me, Alicia, I have no choice. I don’t write scenes. My characters do. They just let me hang around long enough to type the words.

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