I’m at the most difficult part of writing my next novel: imaging a deadly crime and how someone (almost) gets away with murder. There’s much work to be done off the book, work unknown to all but the writer, at this stage of the game. Maybe that’s why I’m consumed today with the idea of hidden things.
Most of what is observable in the universe is hidden, so it shouldn’t be surprising that large chunks of our lives and our world are unknowable, too. Astronomers say that 95% of the universe is either dark matter or dark energy, neither of which they know much about. Almost everything in space is a mystery to us here on earth.
Our own corners of the planet can hold hidden secrets, dangers of which we aren’t even aware. Hiding places are everywhere, just ask the tiny ants that come from nowhere into my kitchen. You might think, well these are tiny ants, so sure, they can hide in cracks in walls or windows not observable to the naked eye, or so my exterminator tells me.
Yet right outside my home, there’s danger lurking in the bayou. My husband, Al, likes to walk the nature trails on the shore of the bayou. I shudder when contemplating joining him on these hikes. There’s a sign saying “enter at your own risk” and another further on with a picture of an alligator and the word DANGER. Those gators are hiding just under the bayou surface, waiting for the unaware, for the less vigilant hiker.
This week I finally consented to take a walk with Al, something I hadn’t done for several years due to my fear that a gator would rush out of the water, grab my ankle with his sharp teeth, and chomp. It happens. We all know it. Somehow we convince ourselves we are safe. We are the lucky ones who can enjoy nature without colliding with its evil elements.
On our walk, Al told me the hilarious story of another time he’d been hiking and gradually became aware of a six foot long snake walking beside him. Al said the snake was bobbing along, maybe three feet of him raised tall, as if they were pals out for a stroll. When Al flicked his eye toward the snake, it went belly-flat and slithered away. Snakes are really smart about hiding in plain sight. And that will be my last walk on the nature trail for awhile.
I’ve got a crime novel to write.
Writing seems to me much safer. Yet, crime novels, too, feature plots that are hidden behind the surface of the words, action, setting and characters. The hidden plot, the one the reader will never see, is that of the murderer. His motives, machinations and methods may never be fully revealed, but the author must write a complete hidden history in order for the visible plot to flow.