Saturday, February 20, 2016

Finding Voice

I wrote this on Monday in my journal...

I think I've found Lainey's voice. It gradually came to me--or was coming to me--and then this morning I was jotting down this scene and there it was.

It's hard to explain this phenomena (other writers know what I mean by this), but there it was. I'd been writing along, pages, chapters, filling the document with scenes, dialogue, which I tried to give life to. In some cases they were bare bones, no fleshing out, or attempts at it have been like a fishing trip, where the fish don't bite. I would be left with the thought that eventually I'd find a way to make it better.

And then, one day--this day--I'm writing a vivid scene (one of those which either wake you, or you have it in your head when you wake), and BOOM! There it is! Your character has, well, character.

As in all books, I know basically where I'm going. Like driving in the dark with one headlight. It's just getting to that destination without hitting a deer, or having a flat tire--something that stops you cold.

Well, today, it came. Yep. Lainey Quilholt, my MC of my murder mystery has come alive in my head, and I suddenly knew her like the back of my hand.

The following is the scene in which she just popped out on the page. And mind, its in Chapter 9... but here is the section. Set-up: Lainey is investigating the apartment of the girl who was murdered. It's been up-turned by someone looking for something, and Lainey just happened to find whatever incriminating pictures to explain--she hopes--why she was murdered.

And this is the one point in the book she is physically threatened. As a cozy, you can have your MC get into sticky situations, she can get out of them, or a combination of her and someone coming to her rescue. This is one of those situations.

I walked through the living room carefully, my phone out, and began making a video of my walk-through, meanwhile talking about what I saw as I went along. I picked up a few large pictures, opened their backs, which wasn't hard, as the glass was shattered, but found nothing. Finding nothing in the living room, I stepped down the hallway, picking up scents from her bathroom. I opened the door. Expensive perfumes had been left untouched on her bathroom tile counter. The medicine cabinet was emptied, but there wasn't a mess—no toothpaste or lipstick smeared on mirrors or walls. Again, drawers were turned out. Obviously, the destruction wasn't out of hatred, or a need to trash her place. They were looking for something hidden. My instincts were on the mark.
In the bedroom, similar destruction, as everywhere else, filled my eyes. Only in here her clothes were scattered everywhere. The closet was completely emptied. I saw no hidden safe inside, so the person who had been hopeful of something of this sort had been out of luck. Books from shelves were strewn all over. I was a bit surprised that Arline would have books of any kind in her apartment, but upon close examination I learned she liked romance novels. The books themselves were thrown open, face down on the floor. Again, suggesting to me that this person was looking for something that could be slipped between the pages of a book. A picture, or a document came to mind. The person who had been looking would have shook the book, hoping something would slip out.
Oddly, they did not yank down the pictures off the wall, nor disturb those on her dresser. They were looking behind the drawers again. If they had found something, I wouldn't know. But I still wondered if Arline wasn't a bit too bright for locating something she needed to hide from someone she might be blackmailing.
I had been assured by Weeks that the forensics had dusted thoroughly for fingerprints, so I didn't feel the need to don any sort of gloves to begin searching. I took down the first picture and opened up the back. I found nothing in the first three I took down. These were pictures of Arline on a quarter horse. Obviously, she owned a horse and rode dressage in competition. Something that Wendy hadn't mentioned in her rant about what Arline had and Wendy didn't have.
I moved to the next series of pictures. One was of Arline and AJ at the prom. They were a good looking couple, no doubt. Another picture that sat squarely on her dresser was of her and AJ in evening attire. I looked at a small card tucked into the far left corner. This was their engagement announcement and picture.
A thrill went through me as I picked it up and turned the little metal brackets that held the picture in place, and opened up the back. Carefully, I removed the cardboard underneath the velvet backing. Unbelievably, a piece of paper folded in half was revealed. I held my breath, took it out and unfolded it. The picture was hard to see in the dim lighting, but it was of a car with a crumpled front end. I turned on the lamp by the bed, sat and leaned toward the light so that I could see the details of the photo. This was an enlargement of the actual photo. I had to wonder what happened to the pictures, and were there any negatives?
Now that I had better lighting, I could see that there was someone slumped behind the wheel, but couldn't make out who.
Quickly I went to the other photo. The one of their prom. Upon opening this one, I was rewarded again with a prize. Another picture, similar to the first one I'd found, only this was a close up and I squinted to puzzle out who it was when a sound out in the hall, or further in the living room, alerted me that someone was coming. I quickly shoved the pictures the underneath my shirt at the small of my back, and into my waistband to hold them in place. Grabbing my phone off the bed, which was still recording, I held it facing the door to record whoever walked through.
Hello? Who's there?” I said, my heart having suddenly begun pounding in my chest.
The door opened a little wider, and the young man with incredibly blue eyes, who'd been in the bookstore looking for this very apartment building, was standing there staring at me. Today he was wearing cream-colored chinos and a dark blue shirt and some sort of lace-up boots.
Who are you? What are you doing here?” he said in an accusatory voice. Apparently he didn't recognize me from that day he was in the bookstore. Just as well.
I might ask you the same, but since you asked, my name is Lainey Quilholt, and I've permission to be here by both the police, and the landlady. Do you?”
I came to see Arline. What happened here?” he said, looking around.
And your name is?” I wasn't going to let him go without learning his name.
Dave? Just Dave?”
He made an exasperated sound like he couldn't be bothered. “Dave Corbin.” He pointed at me, those blue eyes edged in black seemed to throw sparks. “Again. Why are you here? Where's Arline? What the hell happened here?”
Either he was doing a stand-up job of acting like he didn't know about Arline, and wasn't the one who had turned her place upside-down, or he really didn't know. I couldn't discern which.
Arline is dead,” I said and waited, still recording his reaction with my cell phone. At least I hoped I was, I was too afraid to look down at the cell phone in my hand to tip him off what I was doing, or that I was holding it.
Dead?” he said. One hand went out and grasped the frame of the door as he slumped a little. I couldn't decide if his expression was one of shock, or relief. There was thought that you couldn't go by how a person reacts to such news. Some people are good actors, and others simply are shocked and can't show emotions right away. “How?”
She was murdered,” I said.
Two nights ago. On Friday night.”
He mulled this over for a few beats. “Why are you here?”
Uh, I'm grabbing a few things I left here,” I lied. He had no business knowing. I wanted to get out of there real fast, but I felt that there might be more incriminating pictures hidden somewhere. I had wanted to check the smaller pictures, plus that large switch plate in the kitchen which hadn't worked—which I figured might be a possible hiding place.
He gathered in the scene, saw the dismantled pictures on the bed and said, “What are you doing? Why have you opened up those pictures? What did you find?” His accusatory voice rose.
I lifted my chin. “None of your business.” I hadn't brought my purse in, because of the burden of carrying it while I searched, not that I carried a weapon in it or anything, but as heavy as it was, I could certainly have used it to swing at his big head with.
In a flash he suddenly had a knife in his hand and held it up. It looked like a switch-blade, not that I knew one knife from another. Although the bed stood between us, I didn't feel that was much of a barrier. I could see him scrambling over it to get to me easily. My brain went through a hundred ways I could react, some of which included throwing things at him—like a stupid girl (which was how I felt at that very moment), to running around the room screaming (like a trapped hamster in a cage with a cat after it), and there was my personal favorite scenario (and totally unrealistic), where I became a combination level 5 black belt and professional kick-boxer.
Returning to my reality quickly, I searched my immediate options—throwing pillows wouldn't hurt, or stop him. I eyed the picture frame with the glass just as he said, “How 'bout I cut you a knew belly button.” He wiggled his knife to get his message across.
Me first.” I grabbed the picture frame, glass and all, off the bed and flung it like a Frisbee. Reflexes like a cat, he dodged just in time. A good thing he did because the frame clattered off the wall, but the glass stuck into the drywall by one corner about three or so inches. I didn't have time to think about what it might have done to him if he hadn't moved. But that definitely got his attention. I grabbed the other picture, took the glass out of it and held it, poised to fling it at him again, even knowing I'd probably cut myself when I threw it, but he'd get cut worse. At least I hoped so. But after that, my options were nil. Filming it all was now no longer important, and at some point I'd dropped my cell phone.
Don't come any closer, or I'll cut you in half!” I shrilled.
He snarled, looking as though he'd call my bluff and made another step forward.
At that exact moment, someone burst into the room yelling, “Freeze, scumbag!”
Corbin froze.
Drop it!” came the command. It was Weeks with his service revolver pointed at Corbin's head.
Suddenly the room was full of cops, and within moments Corbin was pushed into the wall, assuming position, searched and handcuffed by two deputies. It all happened so fast, I barely had time to watch and realize I was now safe.
Charge him with trespassing and assault with a deadly weapon for starters. If I think of anything else, I'll let you know,” Weeks said.
His two men roughly pushed Corbin out of the room.
The excitement was over and my knees shook. I slumped from adrenaline dump. Strong arms grabbed me and held me up. A heavy chest and pleasant aftershave in my face while Week's voice above my head said, “I gotcha Lainey-bug. You're safe. You'll be alright, now.”
After pulling myself together and letting out my held breath, I breathed, “Thank you.” He released me and I stood on my own.
You okay now?” He bent to look at me in the face. His eyes squinting, the crows feet deepening around them.
Yeah.” I took stock, breathed some more thinking about how close that had come. “I almost cut him in half.” I pointed to the glass embedded in the wall.
Too bad you didn't. Could've saved me the job of processing the punk.” I let out a small, very weak chuckle at his joke. Somehow I don't think he was joking all that much.
How did you know?” I asked.
Mrs. Couch called, said there was the same guy prowling around the place as the other day. Didn't like the fact you were here on your own, and we got out here pronto.”
He's the one came into the bookstore,” I said. “Asked me where The Chandelier was.”
Really?” Weeks hands were at his hips, utility belt making it a little difficult to give him a relaxed pose, but he managed. “We'll straighten this all out later. Find out who the hell he is and why he was so interested in this place.”
You going to question him?” I asked.
Oh, yeah.”
Can I watch?” He gave me a startled look. “You know, through two-way glass, or something?”
We don't have a two-way mirror, nothing fancy like that. But we do have a live video feed.”
That would work.” We moved through the room, toward the hallway while talking. I stopped. “Oh. Wait. I forgot, in all the excitement.” I pulled out the two concealed pictures I'd found from my shirt and handed them to Weeks. “I found these behind some pictures.”
He took them and squinted at them. “Looks like an accident with a car.”
Yeah. I heard that Arline had an accident while coming down from the Dells, back in June. She had to have had some sort of insurance claim. But I don't know what sort of car she owned, or anything. You might want to check this out.” I pointed at the second one. “See? That's not Arline behind the wheel. It almost looks like AJ.” I was squinting at the blown up version of the first photo.
Where'd you find these?” he asked, looking through them again.
She hid them behind two nice pictures of herself and AJ.”
How'd you come up with looking there?”
I shrugged. “My mother hid things in her framed pictures. I didn't know for sure, but it made sense to check these, since the framed pictures were on Arline and AJ.” I looked up at him. “They were once engaged, you know.”
No. I didn't.” Holding the pictures he said, “This is great. Is this what you were looking for?”
No. I was hoping for her bank book. But I'm sure whoever had gone through here like a tornado has it.” I held up a finger. “Wait,” I said, having thought of the non-working light switch in the kitchen. Weeks followed me through the apartment. I paused at the light switch. “You got some sort of screw driver?” I asked when he pulled up beside me.
Sure.” He took out a Swiss Army knife and pulled the correct tool out. “Open that. This light switch wasn't working. I'm just curious as to why.”
Weeks worked all four screws out and lifted off the switch plate. Sure enough, there were no wires, but a small hiding place in the wall. There was something inside. Weeks reached in and pulled out a small camera.
Man, how did you think of this?” he asked, holding the camera, looking at it.
I shook my head. “All I know is that Arline and AJ were really arguing that night at the park. Someone said she wasn't working any more. And also that she had this expensive apartment.”
You thinking blackmail?” he asked.
I'm thinking she may have been holding something over AJ's head. She can't tell us anything, now. But these things might help.”
He nodded. “Lainey, any time you want to help out, let me know.”
I want to hear what Corbin has to say,” I said.
Follow me to the station.”

For the first chapter you can go to:

Just so you know, this is a WIP, and it's not perfect, (subject to rewriting and changes).


  1. Very well done, Lorelei!

    I've found that writing in first person is a good way to find a character's voice. I know some promising writers with a great deal of talent who haven't yet learned to speak in the character's voice. They would benefit from using first person.

  2. Oh, thanks, Norma. I think it's why I write in first person mostly.
    And thanks to you, I was able to find a place to get the first chapter out there.


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