Thursday, April 30, 2015

Write Away: Z is for Zowie! and Zugzwang

Zowie! The End! And I did it! Another year completed in the A-Z Blog Challenge. Time to start planning next year! If you are looking for another great blog to read, hop on over to  Great book reviews, and Diane’s mystery posts were very interesting and informative this month!

Now as to my final mystery term, I considered zany mysteries, sometimes called capers, but I already did a post on them.  

I also considered zip gun as another weapon for you to use in your mystery. These improvised weapons cobbled together by crooks are pretty interesting. And not terrifically reliable, as you might imagine. But if you want to know more, there’s plenty out there to mine.

But what got me going was zugzwang. What a cool word. And like xenogamy, it’s not really a mystery term at all. So, borrowing from the chess world, let’s see how zugzwang might play out in your mystery or crime fiction book.

Zugzwang is a chess situation. One side is forced to make a move resulting in a serious disadvantage; a disadvantage that might well determine the outcome of the game.

In your novel, perhaps your law enforcement officer is compelled by an uptight new captain to go strictly by the book. No intuition allowed. No niggles followed up on. It’s all about the evidence trail with your captain, no room for the LEO’s extensive experiences to direct actions.

So your LEO brings a guy in for questioning. The LEO can tell he done did it! He asks for an arrest warrant so he can get the bad guy off the streets or keep him from running to ground while he investigates more. This is a judgment call. Some evidence, not conclusive evidence. The time the suspect is in custody would allow the LEO to get the conclusive evidence. The captain says “Nope. Let him go.”

Your LEO is in zugzwang. The LEO knows and the reader knows this is the right bad guy. But the LEO is forced to release him. Of course, in your book, this is merely a plot twist that you will rectify. In real life this kind of zugzwang might not have a happy ending.

Or consider your amateur sleuth getting in over her head by arranging to meet in with the murder suspect. She thinks she’s got it under control, but he only agrees to meet her in an isolated location. Of course, her ego doesn’t allow her to tell anyone or get back up. She shows up and finds herself out-maneuvered. Uh, oh! Zugzwang!

Zugzwangs make terrific plot points for those decision times in the plot. Zugzwangs are "The Black Moment". How bad can you make it for your detective? Pretty bad if you go the zugzwang route. The stakes, in chess lingo, are death to the King.

Hmm. Maybe xenogamy and zugzwang will make it into the mystery terms lexicon. And you read it here first. Thanks so much for sharing this journey with me. Please come back every Tuesday to see what else pops up on Write Away.

Here’s how “The List” ends, too. 

Zooming in as she rapidly typed the list ending, Fran felt a release. With this table of contents done, the book was write itself! She’d make her deadline. She’d be back on top. She’d show Mort who was washed up!

   “And the number one way to stay happily married is:
1.              Never take him for granted. It’s easier to walk out than to stay around and work it out.”

            Reflecting on what she had listed several months ago, Fran reached over for her Magic 8 Ball. She shook it well, and turned it over to read the floating message.
“Without a doubt”
            Fran began giggling. The giggles turned into uproarious laughter. And the tears fell in great blotches on her pink silk slacks.

The End--or is it???


  1. Hi there - Loved your Z words. And, Thank You so much for the plug to FictionZeal. I had signed up for your emails earlier this month, so I plan to continue to follow your blog even as the A to Z Challenge goes night night for this year. :)

  2. Thanks so much, Diane. It has been delightful! I am eager to see where your posts lead me as well. See you at FictionZeal and here!