Thursday, April 9, 2015

Write Away: H is for Heist and Hunch

I’ll bet you thought homicide would be my H word. And it could have been. After all, in most mysteries and crime fiction, killing someone, or trying to, is the predominant crime. Highest stakes, so greatest reward when solved. But you don’t need more info on that word unless you are talking about kinds of homicide. You can look that up

I already did an extensive post on hybristophilia, so I didn’t see a need to repeat myself.

And then there’s the good old standby of mysteries and crime fiction: hostage, someone who is taken against one’s will and held against some demand, usually, but not always money. The hostage situation in your book might be at a bank or someone’s daughter kidnapped. I used a hostage situation in Mission Impastable to make the stakes higher for Alli, my amateur sleuth.

But today, H is for Heist and Hunch.

Heists are often fun crime fiction. Sometimes they end up being capers. The heist is a typically a non-murder crime. It’s a robbery or burglary. More often heists are burglaries because of the nature of the high-stakes item being stolen, which tend to be in high-security areas. There have been a number of good heist movies, the Oceans 11 movies (1960 and 2001) coming immediately to mind.

The word heist is a mid-19th century local pronunciation of hoist, meaning to raise up or lift something. That’s your etymology lesson for today.

So to keep the reader reading, the amount heisted has to be substantial (like diamonds) and/or of intrinsic interest. A heist in a museum for instance might steal King Tut’s death mask. Oh, sure, it’s worth more than I earn in a year, but the real value of the desk mask is in its historicity. So, if planning a heist mystery or crime fiction book, make it an irresistible theft.

Heists typically focus more on the planning and execution of the theft than on the attempts to solve the crime by law enforcement personnel. We often like the crooks in a heist (as much as one can like law breakers). There is also typically an ensemble cast of thieves who each bring a unique talent to the team. Of course there are complications. Heists never go as planned.

H is also for a Hunch that amateur sleuths are even more inclined to listen to than a professional would be. A hunch is a guess or feeling not based on facts. Dare one say in cozies, where most sleuth’s a women, that a hunch is women’s intuition? When amateur sleuths get hunches, they follow through on them, if not right away, then they follow up at some point. I can’t think of a single cozy where the amateur’s hunch didn’t pay off.

The hunch might be a feeling that someone isn’t telling the truth, that the death wasn’t accidental, that something is missing from the narrative. The sleuth is convinced that something’s not right and investigates that line from which hunchhood originated. And the sleuth is right. Use hunches for your next mystery as a device to move the plot forward and highlight of mask clues.

Part 8 of “The List” has Fran reluctantly joining Mort on the beach condo deck.

            Huffing a loud sigh so Mort would know she had given in, Fran turned off the typewriter. She supposed she should go outside since she’d been inside the whole week, but an enthused Mort was not her idea of a good time. His perpetual cheeriness was more than a bit grating. And, he knew she hated to be called Frieda! Didn’t he? He had to know—why else did he think she had everyone else call her Fran or Aunt Fran?
            “All right, already. I’m coming. You won. You better get your keester in gear so that wine is waiting for me!” She slid the screen door open and stepped down onto the deck. The bright sun bouncing off the afternoon waves nearly blinded her. She slid on her oversized sunglasses to watch Mort pour her wine into a glass on the table between the two chairs. He handed it up to her so she could sip before taking her seat beside him. It was perfectly icy. The only way she would drink it. Mort had his flaws, but honoring her wine tastes was not among them.


  1. That's a lot of "H's". I enjoyed your excerpt Sharon!

    1. LOL, Fran! I do tend to get carried away, I'll admit. There are just so many darn terms for each letter! Thanks for dropping in to read and comment. I hope to see you again. Take a look at some past posts for even more terms.

  2. Hello there.
    Thanks for sharing. Just making my way around the challenge.

    Entrepreneurial Goddess

    1. Thanks for dropping in, Goddess. I hope you rummaged around among some past posts while you were here. Isn't this challenge fun? I'll drop in on you, too. I hope to see you again here.