Of Schedules and Short Stories

A few days ago I was feeling frustrated that I was falling behind on my list of tasks to set up Gargoyle Girl Productions (for example, it still has no website). Having radiation EVERY DAY this month has put a crimp into my days. But I reminded myself that one of the reasons I wanted to publish my books myself was for this very reason: so I could be on my own schedule regardless of what health issues I might be facing. But… it still felt frustrating!

Trying to follow my own advice, I threw my schedule out the window. The next morning, I woke up with freedom. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. For the last couple of months, there's been a short story idea bouncing around in my head. I didn't think I had time to write it.

This week, I'm writing that story.

I knew this idea should be written as a short story, rather than a novel, because the idea centered around a locked room mystery. In "locked room mysteries," also called "impossible crime stories," the whole idea is based around the twist that makes it possible for a seemingly impossible crime to have actually occurred—such as a man found dead inside a windowless room locked from the inside with no possible way for anyone to have escaped. Locked room mysteries provide a great twist, and in a short story, a twist is key.

I've loved these types of puzzle plots since I was a kid. They're so fun in part because they're fair play mysteries, where the reader has all the clues they need. They're also fun because you know you're in for a satisfying resolution at the end.

There are novels that feature locked room mysteries—John Dickson Carr, the master of locked room mysteries, wrote many of them—but in a short story the focus can be on creating everything that leads up to that "ah ha!" payoff moment. When I have an idea for a locked room twist, the pieces fall into place for me as a short story.

Time to get back to writing that twist.