I love jigsaw puzzles. I always have one out on the table to work on. 1000 piece puzzles are my favorite. And I like peaceful scenes, villages, animals, and sometime cartoon characters. I work on puzzles to take a break and I always build the outside first, finding all the flat edges, and then working in to the middle.  It occurred to me as I finished one puzzle and started the next, about the same time I started sketching out my next novel, that I probably plot out a book like I build a puzzle.

The idea, or the frame comes first, the crime, or sometimes the characters, and then the flat edges of a story; the main characters connection to the crime, the setting, the conflict and an idea for the resolution.  A lot of the time I get the framework of the story down, but the middle is blank for me.

Going back to the puzzle, when I pour a new puzzle out on the table, spend time setting every piece face up and sorting out the frame, I’ve got a pile of jumbled pieces in the middle of the frame, pieces I have to fit somewhere. Same with a story, I hate a blank middles so I start tossing in ideas, some disparate, some similar, and spend time sorting, figuring what fits best with the frame, the crime, the characters, the conflict. When I get to the end, and put the last piece into the novel, it’s every bit as satisfying as putting the last piece in the puzzle.

I think I like writing and reading suspense and mystery stories because I like puzzles. Yesterday I got the latest Elizabeth George on my Kindle. As I settled into read, I love the way her stories start. They are like a really complicated puzzle that takes time to sort through, but each piece is so gratifying to fit into place, I hate coming to the end of one of her books. Good puzzles are like good novels,  the object is to finish and put every piece in place, and even though it’s fun to see the whole picture, it’s sad when you come to the end.

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