” What comes first in a Mystery: Plot or Character?”

Today I am happy to share a guest post with author Joyce T. Strand.   This is on her latest book, ” The Judge’s story.   

What Comes First in a Mystery: Plot or Character?

By Joyce T. Strand

Agatha Christie started to write her books by deciding on a murder. And she also had her Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple as developed characters to solve them, and readers grew to know them and their quirks.

Michael Connelly has been quoted as saying that readers return to his books because of the characters—not because of plot twists.  I return to his books to join Harry Bosch in solving L.A. crimes and Mickey Haller defending the criminals from the back seat of his Lincoln.

However, Mary Higgins Clark seems to rely on plots to develop her characters and manages to turn the most innocent of settings, such as a health spa, into terror for her characters. I remember her books not for her characters, but for the situations in which she involves them, such as, the ringing of a bell by a live victim trapped underground in a coffin.

So when it came time for me to write my own mysteries, well, I have many favorite authors to consider.

For my most recent mystery, The Judge’s Story, I definitely started with the character and developed the mystery, plot, and setting around him. The book is truly a fictional mystery, but the protagonist is based on a 1941 memoir of an actual California Superior Court Judge. His beliefs, mores, and ethics drove the story and relationships with the other characters. The character came first followed by a fictional plot that would fit into his life.

This is not exactly the way I developed my four current-day novels. Granted, I first created my protagonist. In the first three mysteries, Jillian Hillcrest, a Public Relations executive, solves the crimes, and in the fourth mystery, Brynn Bancroft, a financial executive turned winemaker, does. But for all four of these novels, I created the plot from real-life crime cases in California and then developed the characters as they reacted to the need to sleuth a solution.

Regardless of how we start our mysteries, we must weave the essential elements together in a compelling story: a puzzle that we’ll want to solve, be it a murder, robbery, or missing jewelry; an engaging sleuth, whether amateur or crime-solver; a convincing villain, either sympathetic or hateful; red herrings to divert us; oh, and sometimes a touch of romance to spice things up.

After all, that’s the fun of reading a mystery.

Title: The Judge’s Story

Published: June 23, 2015

Genre: Historical Mystery

About The Judge’s Story

A Superior Court Judge with a passion for social justice as well as the law strives to discover the truth behind the mystery of a robbery-murder in a small California town in 1939.

When the Judge hears testimony against a 14-year-old teenager, he realizes that the boy participated in a robbery-murder. However, the accused did not actually pull the trigger. But unless the boy identifies his partner, the Judge must sentence him as a murderer, which would result in prolonged jail time. The Judge’s investigator, along with the precocious 16-year-old girl who identified the boy as one of the thieves, explore different approaches to uncover the murderer. In the backdrop of escalating war in Europe, the financial scarcities of the Great Depression, and the Judge’s caseload, their attempts to find justice for the accused boy and unmask the killer lure the Judge and his friends into sordid criminal activities.

Inspired by a memoir of a real California Superior Court Judge

About Joyce T. Strand


Joyce T. Strand is the author of who-done-it mysteries.

Her newest novel, The Judge’s Story, published June 23, 2015, is a historical mystery set in a small California town (Ventura) in 1939 and features a California Superior Court Judge.

Her most recent contemporary novel, Hilltop Sunset, is the first of a trio featuring protagonist Brynn Bancroft, a financial guru in transition to winemaker from corporate executive. Brynn Bancroft is a minor character in Strand’s novels On Message, Open Meetings, and Fair Disclosure—three mysteries solved by Jillian Hillcrest, a publicist whose boss was Chief Financial Officer Brynn Bancroft.

Much like her protagonist Jillian Hillcrest, Strand headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California’s Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Today, in addition to creating mysteries, Strand writes and publishes a blog, Strand’s Simply Tips, is a writer for a regional wine magazine, and is working on the second Brynn Bancroft mystery, to be published in November 2015.

Strand lives with her two cats and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and seeks out and attends as many Broadway musicals and other stage plays as she can.


Purchase Links for The Judge’s Story

Book and Kindle http://amzn.to/1f3F3QN

Barnes and Noble Nook http://bit.ly/1LWf8os

Author Links:

Web page http://joycestrand.com

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/JoyceTStrandAuthor

Amazon http://amzn.to/1CCniCH

Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/1I0rZIL

Goodreads http://bit.ly/Xx8kab

Twitter: @joycetstrand

Blog: http://StrandsSimplyTips.blogspot.com



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