Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gayleen Froese - Hands On

A Feel for the Real Deal

"The first place we're going," Jeff told me, "is the shooting gallery. You will come with me and we will have fun."

My friend Jeff is a man of unshakable beliefs. One of these is that anything he considers fun is fun, for everyone. I was about to argue the point when I remembered two things: 1) Jeff was my guest in Edmonton, which meant going where he wanted to go, and
2) I was writing a novel in which a character had to load and fire a handgun, and I've never done either. An air pistol, sure, but not the real thing. I figured I should give it a go.
I told Jeff I'd be happy to accompany him.

"Excellent," he declared. "I hear they have a great many guns there."

That was a selling point for Jeff, who wanted to shoot something interesting. I merely wanted to shoot something educational.

The gallery did have a great many guns, as it turned out. You could shoot nearly any of them, for a price. You paid for brief access to a gun, ammunition, ear protection, and a gallery where you'd be taken through the basics by a trainer who doubled as a security guard.

"Oh, no," I said, spotting a blindingly shiny gun with an awkward, oversized barrel. "Is that a Desert Eagle?"

"Oh, yes," Jeff said. "Yes it is."

"One of my characters used to carry one," I said. "He thought it was cool. It looks ridiculous."

"It is ridiculous."

"Evidently." I said. "I feel as if I know my character better now. He just, deep down, felt he needed the biggest gun. That's what was wrong with him in a lot of ways."

Jeff wasn't willing to pursue that conversation, so we concentrated on choosing our guns.

I was having a good time, actually, even in the gallery. My gun was easy to hold and shoot, if a pain to load. I enjoyed finding, after a quick lesson from the trainer, that my aim was pretty good.

I'd reloaded once and was about to start shooting again when I realized that I was standing in a room full of strangers, with the exception of Jeff, and that all of them were holding guns.

I'd thought I was used to guns, since they're on TV all the time. I'd played paintball and laser tag. I even knew a few people who carried real guns. Some of my friends did target shooting, and my dad had a rifle. I knew a guy who'd driven for several hours with two bags of loose guns in his trunk, but that's a story for another time.

Anyway, the last thing I'd expected was to feel uncomfortable around guns. It was strange, though. I didn't know these people, for one thing. And they weren't just carrying guns. They were shooting. They weren't shooting each other, of course, but they could have if they'd felt like it. In such a small room, I was pretty sure the trainer/guard wouldn't have been able to pull his own gun until at least one person had been shot. It would have been terrifyingly simple, and quick, and final.

And what about that guard, who carried a gun in case he needed to shoot someone who'd decided to shoot other people? That was a possibility he accepted when he started work each day.

That was when I realized I hadn't come there to learn how to load or fire a gun. I'd thought I had, but those things hadn't been important. I'd come there to learn that a real gun could be scary, no matter how inured to guns a person might believe herself to be. I'd gotten a sense of how my detectives might feel about carrying a gun, and how they might react when a gun was pointed at them. I'd learned there was a surprising weight to even the little one I'd picked up.

I stayed and finished my ammunition, though I didn't really want to. I didn't say anything about what I was thinking to my friend, who'd had a whale of a time and was already planning his next visit.

"We'll come back next time I'm in town," he said. "We can try different guns. You want to shoot the Desert Eagle?"

I said no, thanks.

"You can come back if you want, but I got what I needed in there."

Gayleen Froese is a novelist and musician from western Canada who currently lives in Edmonton’s historic Alberta Avenue district. The 39-year old has worked as a radio writer and talk show host, an advertising creative director, and a communications officer. She was the winner of the second series of BookTelevision’s 3 Day Novel Contest, which aired in late 2009. Her non-fiction and humour writing has appeared in publications including See Magazine, Avenue Magazine, The Rat Creek Press, and The Session. Touch, Gayleen’s first novel, was published by NeWest Press in Edmonton. The sequel, Grayling Cross, was released in Spring 2011.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Juanita Rose Violini Plays Fair

Getting Away with Murder... Or not

Let me get something off my chest right now. It's all about the puzzle for me. I love being tricked and tricking others. If I reach the end of a murder mystery, whether I'm reading it or writing it, and the killer is someone other than the obvious suspect, I'm happy - so long as all the clues are there to follow in the first place.

Fair play mysteries, where the writer gives the reader all the information necessary to solve the crime are fun. And they can partner up with other types of mysteries. Personally, I am not a fan of slasher mysteries, but they can still have a clue-trail. It doesn't matter if the crime takes place leaving body parts graphically strewn across the pages or in a drawing room with a single broken teacup; does the scene contain enough hints for the detective to make his way along an invisible path? Does it end with an AH HA? Is the solution obvious once you know whodunit?

Coming from a background of writing live mystery entertainment for corporate events, I decided early on that the mysteries I write will be both entertaining and solvable. One of my most murderous feelings came when I attended a mystery party produced by a competitor. Diligently I listened to every word the actors spoke and examined every piece of evidence. Confident that I could finger the culprit I turned in my solution sheet. When the MC blithely announced who the killer was, and that there were no real clues, it had to be a lucky guess, I was ready to grab my butter knife and stab it through his oh wait almost forgot that I don't go for the graphically strewn body parts.

Writing customized scripts for each client was a very labourious task. I scoured libraries and second hand stores looking for a book that would tell me a quick and easy way to plant clues in a mystery. Eventually I came to the conclusion that such a clever document does not exist and I must write it. It's still just a draft but it helps me enormously. Here's the outline turned table of contents that I use.

How to Create a Mystery Plot or Party

You need dirt to dig up a plot.

Motive: Why did it happen?
Method: How did it happen?
Opportunity: When did it happen?

Characters/Suspects: Who did it?
Setting: Where did it happen?

What Actually Happened

What Appeared to Happen

Twisting & Untwisting
The AH-HA! Clue

The mastermind behind the Masterpiece Mysterys, Juanita has written, produced and directed over 50 corporate Murder Mystery scenarios, performed for groups ranging from 20 to 200 people of all ages and walks of life.
Almanac of the Infamous, the Incredible and the Ignored, Juanita's first book, was published by Red Wheel Weiser in October 2009 and includes 365 illustrations by the author. A real-life mystery for each day of the year, on the day it occurred makes this a great compendium of the unsolved and the unexplained.