Write Over the Hump: Twists and Mysteries

Unexpected twists can come from just about anything. It’s the element of mystery contained in the twist that makes our creativity jump on the bandwagon. Then our stories really start to rise. Try this:

Write Over the Hump

You find a paper bag on the street filled with odd items. You take the bag home, open it and something happens. What is in the bag? What do you do with the items and/or where do they take you, or what do they do to you? Write for 10 minutes starting now.

What was in your bag? What happened when you opened it?

Write Over the Hump: The Unexpected

Coming across the unexpected can get our creativity jumping. Nothing shakes up complacency like a unexpected surprise. Nothing makes your readers sit up and take notice like the unexpected. Try this little exercise.

Write Over the Hump

You are paging through a new dictionary you ordered from an online bookstore. You find a strange word you are unfamiliar with, and beside it is your picture (or the picture of one of your characters). What is the word, and what is the definition? How do you react to it?

What word did you find, and what was the definition?

Book Signing!

Head over to Morro Bay this Sunday, April 6th, from 1:00-3:00 pm, at Coalesce Bookstore on Main Street, where I will be part of the SinC Central Coast Chapter book event. There will be 8 local authors of mystery/suspense there to show off their new releases and talk about their books. You can chat with the writers, check out their books and get autographed copies, listen to readings, have some great finger foods and even some wine, and ask questions of the author panel. Readings start at 1:30; the author panel is at 2:45. It’s going to be a fun day Come enjoy the sunshine, the warmth and the mysteries!
Sunday, April 6th
Coalesce Bookstore, Main St., Morro Bay
Time: 1:00 – 3:00 pm

I’ll have my new release on special as well as my first book, Tangled Webs. Pick up your copy and see why readers are raving about Proof of Identity.

“Things progress from one thrilling epiphany to the next, swimming in a psychological whirlwind of incarceration, love, betrayal
and paranormal anomaly, all based on original ideas… Your mind will spin in circles trying to solve this masterpiece of mystery to the very end. Read it!” (Ed Longstreth)

Susan Tuttle has not only fashioned a great yarn but also has again demonstrated her ability as a champion writer of fascinating, unique and charming descriptive phrases. I say her phrases alone are worth the price of the book! (Bill Kemble)

“I started reading a book and somewhere it changed into a movie. The images were so real, the writing so spot-on that when I finished the last scene I expected to see credits rolling. Tuttle’s pacing, word choices, artistic and technical decisions are flawless. Her story premise flows with total suspension of disbelief.” (Anne Schroeder)

Write Over the Hump: Adding Tension

Tension (aka suspense) is vital no matter what genre we write. Without tension, our writing feels flat and boring, even if the prose is beautiful. Those who write in the mystery/suspense/thriller genres have a bit easier row to hoe, since tension is automatically built into the plot of each story. But not every story is a mystery to be solved. Some are love stories. Come are coming-of-age. Some are simply about aging and dealing with change.

Still, all stories need a good balance of tension, or readers won’t keep turning pages. Here’s a fun exercise dripping with tension to get you in the mood.

Write Over the Hump

You are home alone and decide to take a shower just after midnight. You do not lock the bathroom door. You hear a noise coming closer and closer to the bathroom. What do you do? Do not take any time getting into the shower, you are already there when the scene starts. Draw the tension out as far as you can as you write for 10 minutes. Start now.

What kind of tension did you build into your scene?


Write Over the Hump: Weird, Wonderful and Wacky

Here’s one you can use as is about your friend, or substitute your character. It’s another way to twist the way you look at your characters to help you find the weird, the wonderful, the wacky, the unique. You can do this for your settings, too.

Write Over the Hump

If your best friend were a bowl of cereal, what kind would he/she be, and why? Write for 10 minutes.

What kind of cereal did your friend end up becoming?

Write Over the Hump: Tension and Themes

Juxtaposing opposite concepts often leads us into new territory. Opposites both attract and repel. Built-in tension! Learning to use opposing concepts to delineate and define the themes in our writing lifts our stories to a higher level.

Write Over the Hump

Use these words in your writing: ice cream, winter, snow, flakes, blizzard, parkas, boots, mittens. Start with: “The hot, torrid days of summer wrapped around us…” And no fair having your characters think about, talk about or dream about winter… Your 10 minutes start now.


Where did these opposing concepts take your story?



Write Over the Hump: Iconic Phrases

Certain phrases are iconic. They can unlock the child in us and free our imagination to go just about anywhere. When that happens, amazing things emerge from our subconscious minds. Here’s one of the most iconic phrase to start you off.

Write Over the Hump

Give yourself 10 minutes and start with this: “Once upon a time, it…” Start now!


What happened in your “once upon a time”?


Write Over the Hump: Characters and Settings as Art

As writers, we want our characters and our settings to be memorable and unique. This isn’t always easy to accomplish.  They key is to look at your characters and settings as something other than what they actually are. That way, we will see things we normally wouldn’t. Try this.

Write Over the Hump

If you (or your character, or your setting) were a piece of fine art, what would you/he/she/it be, any why? What aspects of that piece of art would define the characteristics of that character or place? Take 10 minutes to write starting now.

What art work did your character or setting end up being?

Write Over the Hump: Wacky Concepts

Off-the-wall concepts can often jump-start our creativity because they are so ridiculous from the outset that our conscious logic goes out the window. We are able to set aside pre-conceived notions about how things are supposed to be and simply let things develop as they will. That’s a skill that translates well when we get back to the “real” world of our normal writing. Here’s a wacky place to start.

Write Over the Hump

You are a contestant on a weird game show. Your task is to design and knit/crochet/weave a sweater for Bigfoot. What does the sweater look like? Write about it for 10 minutes.

What did your sweater design look like?

(More about last week’s words. They are actual words and come from Egypt: pehty = strength; abed = month; sheney = hair)

Write Over the Hump: Defining New Words

I love to learn new words when I’m reading a book. And I’m especially pleased when a writer uses the new-to-me word in a way that allows me to figure out its meaning from the context alone. That way I don’t have to stop to look it up in the dictionary. Elizabeth George is a master at this. I almost never have to fetch a dictionary when I’m immersed in her delightful vocabulary.

The “big words” we use need to be clear to readers from context alone. And it shouldn’t sound as though the writer is defining the term, talking down to the reader or feel awkward in the sentence structure. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, but with a little practice it can become second nature. Try this fun exercise to start.

Write Over the Hump 

Use these words in a story or scene: pehty; abed; sheney. Write so that the reader can understand what they mean just from the context. Do NOT define words anywhere in the text of the story. Give yourself 10 minutes. Go!


How did you use these words?

(Be sure to check back next week for more on these three words.)