Writing Tip — Writing in Time

October wordsLike I said last month, September and October are two of my favorite months during my favorite season. So I find it easy for October to inspire me.


I live in a rural area, and the harvest of corn and soybeans is in full swing. If I wanted a story to follow the cycle of farming, I could start it in the spring with planting and end it with harvesting. The characters’ story arc could mimic the growing season.


Of course, in the U.S., many people spend October gearing up for Halloween. I have never liked the horror aspects of Halloween, but because I have kids, the holiday is a lot of fun. Selecting costumes, participating in school parties, trick-or-treating with friends in our small town where just about everybody comes out for the evening makes Halloween a great holiday for kids.

It’s the perfect setting for the adventures or misadventures in a picture book, chapter, or middle grade fiction.


I like the mysterious quality of October and Halloween.  When I host my annual Halloween party for my family, I emphasize mystery, rather than horror.

I have been working on-and-off for a couple years on a murder mystery that climaxes on Halloween night. I don’t have a title yet but here’s a summary:

“When members of the Stowecroft family, the leading family in Willet County, West Virginia, are being murdered one by one, Junior Lody notices a connection between the current crimes and ones involving the Stowecrofts fifty and seventy years ago. Following the techniques he’s read about in books investigating Richard III and the disapearance of his nephews, Junior realizes the truth behind all the crimes and races on Halloween night to stop the killer from striking again.”

The murders swirl around an empty house the Stowecrofts own on the edge of town. I like adding a haunted house to an October mystery. The colors of fall and the decreasing daylight enhance the air of mystery. The death and decay of nature mirror the murders and old family secrets buried deep.

I have always liked climaxes that occur during a big social event. A strong contrast can be drawn between most of the people enjoying the event, like trick-or-treating in a small town, while the real drama with the main characters goes on behind the scenes. Two examples like this are the main characters searching for assassins during a political convention in The Manchurian Candidate or during a symphony concert in The Man Who Knew Too Much.

How does October inspire you?


Writing Tip

time-2132452_1280Daylight Saving Time

When I wrote about March as setting for stories, I forgot that Daylight Saving Time (yes, “saving” doesn’t have an “s”) occurs in this month.

The most memorable thing to me about the time change is to make sure I get to church on time the next day.  When my kids were babies and toddlers, it also meant a lot of work as I got them back on their schedules.

I have often wondered if I could use the time change as a key component in a mystery. One author did.  A short story from 1933, “No Man’s Hour”, written by Laurence Kirk and collected in The Third Omnibus of Crime, has a murderer trying to use the time change as an alibi but gets the times mixed up and is caught.

Before 2006, Indiana did not observe Daylight Saving Time.  Around 2000, my husband lived in Indiana and worked in Michigan.   Both were in the Eastern Time Zone but Daylight Saving Time meant an hour’s difference when my husband crossed the state line.  At that time,  Gary, Indiana, set its time by Chicago, which is in the Central Time Zone.  In the summer Gary would be two hours ahead of the rest of Indiana.  I know there’s an alibi in this mess somewhere but I’ll need a spreadsheet to figure it out.

For writers of speculative fiction, I think the time change is a possible trove of ideas.  What if people could bank the hour that is skipped in the spring, instead of using it in the fall?  A person could withdraw an hour or more whenever he needed it.  Robbers could specialize in breaking into time banks and selling hours on the black market.

Or what if during the skipped hour, people could time travel, anywhere they want but they would have to get back to their “home” time before the hour was up or be trapped for a year in that other time?  Historians would be out of jobs because all the time traveling would keep changing history.

What are your ideas for using Daylight Saving Time as a story component?



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