A sense of mystery. What makes you read on? #3

Posted by on Nov 18, 2012 in On Writing

  I will tell you a little-known secret about why people read on. The secret concerns the way our brains operate. It will help you pull your readers forward through your story. As a writer, it is vitally important that you know this. The second secret is . . . wait, there’s someone at the door. I hope it’s not that guy who was waving a gun at me when I cut in front of him a few minutes ago. He looked like one mean mother. Wait . . . what the! The third secret of creating a sense of mystery is . . . hold on, I could finish this, but I think there are three people outside now. And one of them is around the back. And there’s another one upstairs! What the hell is that buzzing noise? Is that a chainsaw? Maybe two! The fourth secret of mystery is easy to guess. It goes back a long way. You know, I was always afraid of one thing. When I was a child it wasn’t men in masks that worried me. It was something more ancient, more hard wired inside me, more evil. Something I couldn’t escape. Do you know what it is? If you want to know the fifth mystery you will have to wait until the next time we get back to this subject. To summarise, the five techniques for creating a sense of mystery in your writing, as used above, are: * Foreshadowing and keeping people waiting for an answer. * Putting your character in danger. * Increasing the danger. * Shifting the fear to something different, something older or more personal * The cliff hanger. These techniques must not be over-used, but if you use them well, in a new and unique way, you will drive your readers to read on. And that’s what we want, isn’t it, for readers to read our stories? I wonder would you mind telling us, through a comment below, which other mystery techniques writers use, as this list isn’t intended to be complete, just a good starting point for a conversation?...

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On starting the edits for The Jerusalem Puzzle

Posted by on Jun 28, 2012 in On Writing

Yesterday I started the edits for The Jerusalem Puzzle. I received two pages of notes from my editor at Harper Collins in London on Monday. Her comments included many compliments “powerful – expertly brought to life,” which are encouraging, but I won’t go on any more about, and suggestions for three extra scenes. The first will be where Sean explains in detail why he wants to go to Jerusalem. The second will be where Henry’s involvement is expanded. The final one, at the end, will be where discussions take place about what happened in Jerusalem. There are also notes from HC on each page of the manuscript, which need to be considered. This is all about 6 weeks work, editing maybe 2-3 hrs a day. After this we will have something truly interesting for you for January release. Thank you for staying with me on this journey. If you would like to follow a series of posts on fiction writing for the 21st century sign up for updates on the right. There will be one post a month on the progress of The Jerusalem Puzzle towards launch next January and one post a month on writing craft issues. Here is the first post on writing: http://lpobryan.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/get-your-writing-noticed-1-series-introduction/ You can preorder The Jerusalem Puzzle for UK readers here or for US/Aus/NZ here or Canada here. The image below is of the Italian hardback edition of The Istanbul Puzzle, which is all over Italy at the moment. It was launched June 21st. If you know anyone in Italy please tell them it is available there....

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The 7th Puzzle: What does The Istanbul Puzzle symbol mean?

Posted by on Jan 16, 2012 in Historical Puzzles

Over the past 7 months I have published a series of posts related to the mysteries of Istanbul. This 7th post will be the last in this series. Further posts will cover more general mysteries related to the series of novels coming up over the next few years and updates on writing each novel. The 7th puzzle related to The Istanbul Puzzle is about the meaning of the symbol you will find below. This symbol is discovered by Sean and Isabel during their Istanbul Puzzle adventure. Here is the symbol: At first glance it appears to simply be a square with some lines inside it, which form an upward shaped arrow with 4 double-headed eagles at the compass points. As I explored what this symbol might mean I uncovered a series of interpretations. These interpretations might help you solve the puzzle and win a £100 prize. The details of that prize are after the above link. One of the first interpretations that struck me was that the shapes were also used in a Byzantine children’s game. The objective of the game is to see how many shapes you can create with just four basic elements. The first test in the game, under the old rules, is to see how fast you can create a pyramid and a devil shape. : The second interpretation I found was that some astrological charts used the same shape to chart the positions of the planets at the moment of birth. Here is an astrological chart taken from the Tractatus Astrologicus II, which contained the astrological charts of early European states. It was created by Luca Gaurico, one of Nostradamus’ teachers, and was published in Rome in 1524. : The third interpretation of the image is as a Byzantine magic symbol. The square is universally acknowledged as the magical symbol of earth and the triangle as the symbol of fire. These symbols can be seen on banners from the middle Byzantine period, around the time of the 4th Crusade. The banner image shown here illustrate the original colours of the four Byzantine double-headed eagles. The fourth interpretation is as a Kabbalistic symbol. After the expulsion of Jews on 31 March 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain many settled in Ottoman territories. Rabbeinu ben Adaret, a rabbi and early scholar  of the Kabbalah, moved to Constantinople during that period. The symbol shown is taken from a commentary on his work published in Constantinople in 1574. There are other interpretations of this symbol too. It was used by the Marcianius family, one of the earliest aristocratic families of the Byzantine period as their family symbol. The symbols of the square and the arrow are also alchemical symbols for soot and zinc. The combined symbol is believed to be an alchemical recipe. The Byzantine eagles were part of the formula, whose meaning has since been lost. And finally, at this stage of the plot, and because all the books in this...

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The 6th Puzzle: The Mystery of the Missing Link Mosaic

Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Historical Puzzles

In my mystery novel The Istanbul Puzzle, Sean & Isabel discover a clue early on, a photograph of a mosaic. The mosaic is similar to the iconic Christian images of the Virgin & Child that are so well known all around the world. Here is an example from the Louvre museum in Paris. This is a copper plate believed to have been “taken” from Constantinople in 1204. “Looted” is probably what they meant: The puzzle for Sean & Isabel is that their mosaic is not Christian. But where is it from? Images of a mother and child have been used for thousands of years as objects of veneration. Here is Isis, for instance, with her son Horus: Isis was a goddess in Ancient Egypt, whose worship spread all over the Greco-Roman world. She was worshipped as the Queen of Heaven, the friend of slaves and the downtrodden. According to Herodotus, writing in the fifth century BC, Isis was the only goddess worshiped by all Egyptians, whose influence was so widespread that she eventually became venerated all over the Greek world. Worship of the Queen of Heaven was also picked up by Jews. It is recorded in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, circa 628 BC, in the context of the Prophet condemning such religious worship as blasphemy and a violation of the teachings of the God of Israel. In Jeremiah 7:18: “The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger.” Later the Romans used images of a mother and child for depictions of Aphrodite and Eros and other Roman and Greek Goddesses with their offspring. Here is another picture from the Louvre in Paris: The mosaic discovered in The Istanbul Puzzle is a clue that helps Sean and Isabel. The imagery in the mosaic is so similar to what we all take for granted as an image of the Christian Virgin and Child, they assume it must be a Christian mosaic. But it’s not. It’s a mosaic that shows where Christian artists got their inspiration from. Many such pre-Christian images of Virgins would have been destroyed as being pagan when Christianity came to power, but this one survived. The reason it did, and where it has been for almost two thousand years, are all key parts of the The Istanbul Puzzle. To go to the 7th puzzle click...

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