Friday, November 27, 2009
My local theatre group Affton CenterStage contacted me earlier in the year about writing a new murder mystery for them. I had been kicking around a few ideas so I decided it was time to nail one of the ideas down on paper.
Before I start writing, I begin with a long mental process. As an example, I was inspired by watching a few old movies on TV. One was His Girl Friday made back in 1940 with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. It's more or less a wacky screwball comedy with snappy dialogue and rapid fire one liners. I've always had a soft spot in my funny bone for witty word play. I blame the Marx Brothers and Monty Python for that. Not too long after watching that film, I saw The Thin Man on TV. Another old favorite of mine from 1934, which was based on Dashiell Hammett's story. Another fast paced witty story with Nick and Nora Charles as the detective team - sipping martini's and figuring out who the killer was - I thought to myself, I would love to write something along those lines. Where the detective is not so serious and the solving of the crime seems to be an afterthought. "Oh and by the way, the butler did it."
So the mental process began. I refer to it as simmering or fermenting. I take a few vague ideas and let them ferment into something solid. The initial idea was to set a murder mystery in the 40's and have it take place in a Manhattan Penthouse similar to "The Thin Man". Blended with the idea to utilize the witty dialogue as in "His Girl Friday". The more I thought about it, (or let it simmer) the more I felt I needed to make it my own and not just re-do something already done. In one sense I wanted to pay a homage to that 1930/1940's style of witty word play but again, I felt it should be different. In essence, I needed create something new and not to re-do.
I kept the idea of an urban detective story filled with wacky characters, similar to the old movies and carried them forward into the present day. I thought, "What if the characters of Nick and Nora Charles were around today, what would they be like? Would Nick Charles use modern technology and the internet to help solve the crime? Would he Twitter about the case?"
Running with that idea and blending a few modern day events: a villain who is a greedy, corporate tycoon along the lines of Bernie Madoff named "Gatewood" (which was the name of the greedy banker in the 1939 film Stagecoach) and few other assorted screwball characters a solid idea finally presented itself. The mental task of idea fermenting finally was ready to emerge on paper. The process of writing "Irritation To A Murder" has started. In a few weeks... I will know if it's ready.