Thursday, January 10, 2019

The end is not in sight

Stanley - Thursday

Michael and I are close to typing THE END on our Facets of Death manuscript - the seventh in the Detective Kubu series. We're at about 75,000 words and only have a few chapters to the end. Although the finish line is in sight, we have a problem - we don't know how to catch the bad guy! We've made him too clever.

This is the second time it's happened to us. We were about three weeks from having to hand in the manuscript of our fourth Kubu novel, Deadly Harvest, about a truly evil man who used human body parts in magic potions. But we couldn't catch him. He was not only evil, but he was smart - smarter than us, apparently, because we couldn't figure out how Detective Kubu could bring him to justice.

We brainstormed; we contemplated changing earlier parts of the book; we created scenarios that would lead him to jail. But nothing worked.

Two weeks to go. We spent hours on Skype playing what-if. What if he did this? What if he did that? What if Kubu suddenly developed magical powers?

Panic was setting in.

Then it happened - but I don't remember how or who thought of it. Adding one line did it. One line of dialogue from the mouth of a child. And Kubu had the bad guy. Whew.

We are in a similar position now. Although we are a few weeks further away from submission day than with Deadly Harvest, I'm beginning to feel panic. Not only because we can see how to end the book, but also because we have visitors from next week for a month.

We've already caught the one bad guy, whom we originally thought would be the kingpin. He's a sociopath with no respect for human lives. However, we realised late into the process that he couldn't be the brains behind it all, as well as the brawn. He was the tool, but not the hand.

That change of plan was straight forward from the writing side. But now we are at the denouement. We have to untangle the web we've spun, tie up the loose ends. And we don't know how to do it. The bad guy is cocking a snoot at us.

At this stage, we're wondering whether we should add a child to the story with a one-sentence solution to our problem. However, there are no children in the story and adding one would be a major undertaking.

So, although we're still resisting giving Kubu supernatural powers to catch the kingpin, that alternative is becoming more appealing. And as time passes, the temptation to succumb will only increase.

We are pantsers - that is, we write by the seat of our pants without an outline - because we want to be as surprised as our readers, reaching the end of a book, as to the solution. But maybe we've taken this too far this time. Maybe we'll have to change the title to Book with an end or Guess who did it.

Suggestions are welcome.


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February 13: Exclusive Books, Cavendish Square, Cape Town. Time to be finalised- probably 1900.

March 6, Cape Town. Location and time to be finalised. With Yrsa Sigurdardottir.


  1. Rule of thumb: EVERYONE makes mistakes, even the smartest of people. I leave the details up to the two of you, as I know you're smarter than your villain...

  2. Thanks, Everett. But sometimes we think our villains are MUCH smarter than we are. Even together!

  3. Take the easy way out...the butler did it.

    1. We thought of that! Sigh - no butler. We'd have to write one in.

  4. Cari gentiluomi, this is why the villain in Deadly Harvest is such a genius creation. I maintain that, as pantsers, when we paint ourselves into a corner, we push our imaginations to the limit and that’s when we are at our best. There is a clue somewhere in the story. Kudu, or someone saw it, but it didn’t seem important. Or it seemed like something else. You need to give Kubu a reason to rethink that clue. Then he will discover the truth. Interesting enough, when I did this to myself in Invisible Country, a child, by chance, made my character see the answer. Not by speaking. What fun that was for me!

  5. Don't catch him. Catch the underling. Have major baddie dash into a sewer in Vienna, leave a something that makes everybody think he's dead but Kubu knows different. Spend the next few books catching him, call him a Moriarty, sign the contract for the Hollywood film rights, remember your MIE friends as you sip champagne at the Oscars..... Does that help?

    1. Dammit! Why didn't we think of that. Trust a Scot to solve a knotty problem. There's a wonderful youth hostel in Vienna that's in an old bomb shelter. Maybe he could become the hunch-backed butler there rather than in a sewer??

  6. So it seems I was wrong. It wasn’t a clue. It was a person already there! But the the experience was the same. The story had what it needed and the solution became a coup de creativity. Much more interesting than a formulaic story arc. Hoooray!