The location of a fictional mystery story is as important as the characters. In fact, the location can be a character that changes, speaks and reveals aspects of itself to the reader. The Whispers mystery is set right here on the Mid-Shore, a vibrant location, intriguing and full of surprises. Susan and I were excited about adding aspects of the area and local events to our story and so began a series of many miscalculations regarding the work involved in writing a serial mystery.
I remember saying something silly like, “Half of the work is done for us! All we have to do is tie the storyline to activities taking place here on the Shore.” The problem with this logic is, these popular activities are firmly, not-gonna-move-to-suit-you scheduled. We wanted our episodes to post online one to weeks ahead of the events we were featuring, so I set up a spreadsheet…
A comment from Susan: Of course she set up a spreadsheet. I wonder if she can do a spreadsheet of all the spreadsheets?
Susan got busy on the storyboard. Lo and behold… nothing fit. Whispers took off on what felt like an inspired storyline. Unfortunately, it went places where no community events were planned.
The action laid out like this: Maggie at a fictitious auction. Maggie in her fictitious backyard. Maggie at the fictitious Ashlin’s Restaurant. We had to set up the mystery before we could send Maggie and company off to their first event-related location. With this timing, we missed Oxford Day and The Party on the Point at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. In Episode 4 we finally were able to use a real event: Maggie at the Chestertown Tea Party Festival. I still think the scene where she watches the “Tossing of the Tories” was one of the best ever written. A week before publication we learned that, due to insurance issues, the Tory Toss was being suspended. The best scene ever, I tell you, zapped, just like that. The argument ‘But it’s fiction!’ doesn’t cut it when you’re writing about real events your readers are likely to attend.
We are blessed to live on Maryland’s beautiful Eastern Shore. People come from all over the world to experience what we too often take for granted. The events we all enjoy throughout the year result from thousands of hours of volunteer work done by community-minded individuals. Natural beauty and generous people should be celebrated; they make our lives rich beyond measure. Susan and I wanted to showcase the beauty and lifestyle of the Eastern Shore and give an appreciative nod to the folks who help make this a wonderful place to live. So, Maggie and company had to get in line. And for the most part the characters are now cooperating. After Chestertown – which still had plenty of action, even without dunked Tories – the Whispers cast made it to the Cardboard Boat races in Oxford and to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum for the Fourth of July. Let’s just say Plein Air Easton had a different kind of excitement when our amateur sleuth attends the Quick Draw Competition.
There’s no better place on earth than the Eastern Shore of Maryland. If it’s all about location, Whispers has it made – we all do.