Donald J. Bingle released a new mystery suspense novel, Wet Work, and it’s awesome! You really need to read this book for either summer vacation or a cold winter afternoon. I’d like to thank Donald for stopping by to answer some questions I had. I always have questions. While I ostensibly write fantasy for kids, in the long run, I write mysteries. Magical Drool Mysteries, but mysteries just the same. These are great answers, so thank you again!
1. Do you have a favorite POV? Villain, hero, or minor character watching? Why?
One of the standard devices writers use to avoid narrative exposition is to pair the protagonist with someone else who has a different knowledge base or skill set than the protagonist. (Sometimes that can be someone from a new place being discovered/explored by the protagonist, or a trainer, or a student, etc.). That allows information to be revealed by dialogue as the information is relevant (and not in a big info dump). I like to pair my main character with someone less experienced, so he can explain spycraft and why and how he does what he does, but I give the less experienced partner a niche of expertise or different national background. Then, for each scene, I pick one or the other (or in some cases, another more minor character) and write the scene in limited third person from their point-of-view. This gives me variation in internal dialogue and a chance to highlight how perspective affects perception of certain situations. I will sometimes have short scenes from the pov of the bad guy, but you have to be careful with this. The internalizations you do with the antagonist need to be consistent with their true perspective, not necessarily what they are showing the protagonist, and it can feel dishonest to be with them too long and have them never think about things that are part of their plan and will be revealed later.
2. Do you use red herrings? If so, when do you know in the process if it’s a red herring or the real thing?
If you are doing any kind of mystery, reveal, or suspense, red herrings are essential. Many readers want the opportunity to play along figuring things out, but all readers want the thrill created by not knowing exactly what is coming next. Red herrings are especially essential for keeping meta-readers and sleuths from getting bored. I also think the writer should know from page one what the mystery or reveal is and whodunnit. Putting in clues and red herrings after the fact is always much harder and tends to be more obvious to the reader. Subtle clues need to be part of the natural flow of words, not shoved in later, so I know what is a red herring before I even do it. Ignore the standard advice from playwriting (If a gun is over the mantle in the first act, it should go off at the end of the second act.). Too many mysteries can be solved by the reader noting the one seemingly irrelevant fact mentioned in early chapters and knowing it is a critical clue to the story’s mystery. If that is part of your clue-giving, make the clue subtle and hide it with other seemingly irrelevant facts which are red herrings or actually irrelevant.
3. Do you prefer your protagonist to be young or old, and why? Has this changed over time?
The farther you are from the age you are writing, the more difficult it can be to get the slang correct, the knowledge base correct, the attitude correct, and the internal dialogue correct. Doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but it is harder, especially if you are also correcting for historical period at the same time. I do tend to pair a slightly older character with a slightly younger character (or a character of a different gender or background) to facilitate dialogue. My longer works tend to have adult males as the protagonist; I have more variety in my shorter work. (Kids, teenagers, women, chickens, demons, etc.)
Thank you again, Donald. And, Donald, chickens? I have a drooling basset hound, but chickens? Now I have to find more of your works!
Donald J. Bingle is the author of six books (The Love-Haight Case Files (with Jean Rabe); Wet Work; Net Impact;
GREENSWORD; Frame Shop; and Forced Conversion) and about fifty shorter stories in the science fiction, thriller, horror, fantasy, mystery, steampunk, romance, comedy, and memoir genres. He was the world’s top-ranked player of classic role-playing game tournaments for the last fifteen years of the last century. He once received a surprise package in the mail with a lapel pin thanking him for his “contributions to time travel research.” He’ll really have to get around to doing that research some day soon. He is a full member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, International Thriller Writers, International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, and Origins Game Fair Library. More on Don and his writing can be found at www.donaldjbingle.com.
About the Book
Title: Wet Work
Genre: Spy Thriller
Publication date: June 11, 2018
Publisher: 54-40’ Orphyte, Inc.
Dick Thornby is not Hollywood’s idea of a spy. In his rough and tumble job there are no tailored Italian suits, no bimbos eager to please, and no massive underground fortresses built by evil overlords seeking world domination—just an endless series of sinister threats to the safety and security of the billions of mundane citizens of the planet. Sure, Dick’s tough and he knows a few tricks to help him get out of a tight spot, even if his boss accuses him of over-reliance on an abundance of explosives. But he’s also got a mortgage, a wife upset by his frequent absences on “business” trips, and an increasingly alienated teen-age son who spends way too much time playing in gaming worlds on the computer.
After taking personal revenge on the criminal behind both his son’s injuries and the continued disintegration of his marriage, Dick Thornby is teamed with Acacia (“Ace”) Zyreb, a young, female agent from the East European office of the Subsidiary, to deal with the mystery behind coordinated hacking of the braking systems of several car models.
Doing his best to maintain his vows to his wife, Dick struggles to deal with the inexperience and provocative attitude of Ace on her first non-European mission. Their somewhat combative investigation takes a left turn by uncovering a much more sinister threat to the world and to Dick’s family. He’s willing to risk his job, his partner, and his life to eliminate the threat, but the clock is ticking.
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