Marilyn Meredith on “Unresolved”

Today, my guest blogger is the one and only Marilyn Meredith. After I won her contest, here’s what she “did” to me…

One of the Characters in the Latest Rocky Bluff P.D. Mystery is Susan Tuttle!

Susan won a contest to have a character named after her in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. She also requested that the person not be particularly nice. I obliged her.

I can’t say too much more without giving away something. However, my Susan is a most unusual looking woman because she has ebony black hair and ivory skin. Think Snow White.

I’ve never been to the real Susan Tuttle’s house, but my Susan lives in a redesigned Craftsman among many treasures. I can see my Susan in my mind’s eye just as I see the real one. However, even though I do know the real Susan Tuttle I know far more about my Susan.

I wonder if perhaps I’ve given myself a problem. After the real Susan reads Unresolved will she retaliate by writing me into one of her books? If so, I hope she makes me much younger and full of energy.

In actuality, I hope the real Susan enjoys the character I named after her. I certainly enjoyed creating her.

F. M. aka Marilyn Meredith

Thank you, Marilyn, for stopping by today. I can’t wait to read all about “myself”! I just wish I had that ebony black hair and ivory skin… and that redesigned Craftsman. But I have you for a friend, and that’s a whole lot better! Now as for retaliation… hmmm… we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?


#13 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Unresolved

Blurb: Rocky Bluff P.D. is underpaid and understaffed and when two dead bodies turn up, the department is stretched to the limit. The mayor is the first body discovered, the second an older woman whose death is caused in a bizarre manner. Because no one liked the mayor, including his estranged wife and the members of the city council, the suspects are many, but each one has an alibi.

Copies may be purchased from Book and Table by emailing with a 10% discount and free shipping as well as all the usual places.


Bio: F. M. Meredith lived for many years in a small beach community much like Rocky Bluff. She has many relatives and friends who are in law enforcement and share their experiences and expertise with her. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra.

Visit her at and her blog at

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Write Over the Hump

Here’s a prompt that filled with symbolism. Take it literally, take it symbolically, just see what happens when you let your imagination loose on this little opening.

The rats only came out at night.

Write Over the Hump

We are a society of rules, and we should be. It’s what keeps order, keeps status quo on an even keel. But our stories are all about what happens when that status quo is disturbed, when the rules are broken. Today, let that be your guide as you start your story with:

So that’s what happens if you go out of the lines.

Write Over the Hump

How often do we — and our characters — do something without thinking about it? Just go into a situation, or spout off a bunch of words, with nary a thought to what might happen. Use this prompt to explore just what might happen because of this kind of willful blindness.

I never even looked.


Write Over the Hump

This little line came to me at a church meeting where we were discussing what to do about the old chairs in the sanctuary. I jotted it down because it tickled my fancy. Now see what comes when you use it to start today’s writing session.

Four chairs glued together does not a pew make.

Write Over the Hump

Exploring meanings is integral to what we write. After all, if it doesn’t mean anything, why write about it? Here’s a prompt to get you writing about truth and what it means… for you and for your stories.

They said it was true, but they said a lot of things back then.

Write Over the Hump

Last month we explored what it means to us to be in love. This month, explore what it is like to lose that love. We’ve all felt that loss at one time or another, and in one way or another. Understanding loss, how we felt about it and what we did with/reacted to our feelings helps us write stories that won’t let our readers go.

Write about losing someone you loved.

Write Over the Hump

Sounds sometimes can trigger strong emotions… and great story ideas. Here’s a maddening little sound to start you off on your writing today… where will it take you?

Water drip, drip, dripped from somewhere close by.

To Plot or Not To Plot… A Pantser’s Saga

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. one morning, with a story opening full in my head. It was so clear I could see the words as though they had been typed onto paper. So, I got up, turned on the computer, and wrote about Kaia Devon for 10 minutes.

It wasn’t much, only two pages, about 600 words, but doggone if I do say so myself, they were 600 really good words. An opening that breaks all the rules, but that somehow works (a writing friend, Mark Arnold, said it has something to do with the ice cream…). Clues are dropped to past and future events. There’s a whopping twist at the top of the second page that so far has made everyone who’s read or heard it, startle a bit, then laugh with surprise. And a really dark, unexpected twist at the bottom of page two that makes readers gasp.

Not bad for a middle-of-the-night, wake-up-and-write session.

But — and here’s the kicker — I have no idea what this story is about. No clue what “the incident” with Kaia’s parents is. Not the least idea what is in that safe-deposit box. I do know what causes that twist at the end, but what it means as far as the plot? And where the story goes from here? Not a clue.

That’s because I’m what’s known as a “Pantser.” In other words, I write by the “seat of my pants.” I don’t plot out any of my stories, don’t make an outline, don’t line up the events of the story in order of occurrence. I write to see what is going to happen, to find out what my characters will do in the situations I put them in. For me, if I know ahead of time what will happen, I have no need to write the story.

We all hear and read advice from “experts” about having an outline, how important one is to the flow and success of the story. Some writers are dedicated “Plotters,” like Anne Perry who crafts 40 to 60 page outlines to work from. And that’s good—if your mind happens to work that way. But what the advice about outlines ignores is that not everyone can work from an outline.

It’s a matter of brain chemistry.

Some brains need the structure of an outline, a roadmap that makes the direction of the story clear. It revs up the creative motor, and the writer can churn out scene after exciting scene, like running a marathon. Without a roadmap, without a clear linear direction with plot points along the way showing at least the major events and leading to a set ending, the blank sheet of paper (virtual or real) remains blank.

The outline is the gas that makes the engine run.

But for some brains, an outline becomes a break in the gas line. It leaks out all the fuel, leaving an empty tank. It stops creativity cold, leaving the writer floundering the the midst of writer’s block. But let that writer just put words on the page, allow the characters to “take over” and dictate how they want their story told, then the engine fires with enthusiasm and creativity. Scenes not on the writer’s radar appear out of nowhere; surprising twists never before thought of arise from the void; endings morph from an early idea into something even better and more satisfying. And amazing stories flow onto the page.

The lack of an outline fires these engines and makes them purr.

And, of course, there are those who fall somewhere between these two extremes: Those who work best with an abbreviated outline, or just a few notes on the main events of the story, or those who only need to know how the story starts and ends.

Like I said, I’m a true “Pantser.” Even when I know how I want a story to end, usually when I get there something else happens. Something better. Something more exciting. The characters take over and do their own thing. The story has flown off on a tangent and my original idea no longer works.

I discovered my true process with my first book, Tangled Webs. I’d spend hours outlining the next few chapters, but when I’d sit down to write them, by the middle of the first chapter the story would have veered off in another direction and I’d have to scrap all that planning. Next day, same thing. And the next. And the next. So much wasted time. (And yes, the characters changed the ending I wanted, too!)

Eventually, about halfway through the book, I gave up on outlining. Permanently. Now I just sit, and write, and go with the flow. When I don’t, the story just doesn’t work. I’ve learned to “Pants” it, to give my brain the space to work to its fullest capacity in the way it works best.

There’s no right or wrong. There’s only what works for you.

So forget all the advice. Experiment and find out where you fall on the Plotter-Pantser spectrum. Try a full outline; an abbreviated one; a few notes; or just writing whatever comes to mind. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that just because an “expert” says that outlining is the way it has to be, that you have to write that way. Trust yourself and your process. That’s where your truest and most authentic stories lie.

So now, tell me: Are you a Pantser (like me) or a Plotter (like Anne Perry)? Or are you somewhere in between those two extremes?