Not My Problem
In a perfect world, I’d be able to write mysteries full time, my novels would be on the bestseller’s lists and Hollywood studios would be knocking at my door, anxious to pick up the rights to the books and make movies out of my stories. Yeah, it’s nice to have dreams. Maybe someday, one or more of those components may actually come true.
In reality, I work a full time job (after all, I do like to eat and have bills to pay, just like you do) and write whenever I can find the time. So I couldn’t help but laugh the other day when two female colleagues came to me with big plans. They wanted to trade office space and move a number of people to different offices. Currently there is no extra rooms to be had, so although they both had adequate space for their individual operations, they were anxious for a change. After listening to their plans, I simply nodded.
Then the crux of the matter became known. They wanted me to do the manual labor, moving desks and computers, file cabinets and more. My response: N M P. They exchanged skeptical looks.
“What does that mean?” one asked.
“Not my problem. It’s not my job to move furniture. You two want to make changes. You both have your own staff and resources. It’s up to you to figure out how to do it. My only involvement will be if someone gets hurt.”
Disappointed, they left, grumbling all the way out my door.
When I’m writing, the actions and motivations of my characters is my problem. That’s what it’s all about. I follow along with the story and when an idea presents itself for a problem or a conflict, it’s up to me to figure it out. That’s when it becomes my problem. So it was a refreshing change to be able to let someone else find a solution, particularly when it wasn’t a project that I had any involvement with.
Here’s an example of writing my characters into a problem. This scene is from “Vanishing Act” where Jamie’s best friend Linda has been kidnapped. The police investigation is stalled and Jamie is struggling to find her.
Waiting was driving me crazy. I needed to do something. The computer held no appeal. I couldn’t concentrate on the story, or revisions, or even reading over my notes. I clicked on the folder with digital pictures and tried to get my mind on happier times. But every other picture was of Linda, or me and Linda. There were a number of recent ones, when she’d come back from Raleigh. I stared at the one from New Year’s Eve, where the four of us were together, beaming smiles and enjoying life. My heart ached for Linda.
I missed her. I was worried about her.
All right, I’ll admit it. I was scared about what might have happened to her.
Logan must have sensed my discomfort. He raised his head from the dog bed that Malone had tucked into the corner of the office. Those brown eyes pleaded with me. I got up and went into the kitchen for some tea. Logan padded after me. I knelt down and hugged him.
“Where are you?” I whispered.
He didn’t answer.
Back at my desk, I switched to a mapping program on the computer and brought up the New Baltimore area. According to the techno wizard with the Farmington Police, this was where that message had been sent. It still didn’t make sense. Linda was a west side girl. She was born and raised over here, just like me. She used to joke that if you went east of Woodward, you needed to take your passport with you. I don’t think she knew anyone over there, unless you counted Derek Bishop.
Staring at the map wasn’t getting me anywhere. I moved the mouse to go back to my homepage, but somehow clicked on the icon to change the view of the map. Curious, I waited to see what was around there. Maybe New Baltimore wasn’t their destination. Maybe it was just a spot where they were driving through.
The screen refreshed. When it did, I jumped so fast my mug of tea went flying across the room.
I knew where Linda was.
And I knew who had taken her.