Mystery & Mayhem Tour
Today is my stop on the Mystery & Mayhem tour and I’m here with a brilliant guest post from the lovely and talented Clementime Beauvais! But before we jump to that, here’s some more information on the book!
One challenge: can YOU solve the crimes before the heroes of the stories?
These are twelve brand-new short stories from twelve of the best children’s crime writers writing today.
These creepy, hilarious, brain-boggling, heart-pounding mysteries feature daring, brilliant young detectives, and this anthology is a must for fans of crime fiction and detection, especially the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, The Roman Mysteries and The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.
In for a twist! The art of the short story
By Clementine Beauvais
I have a special fondness for short stories. My very first published piece of writing, in 2010, was a short story: I’d been runner-up in a national competition in France, and my story ended up in a published anthology. My name was printed in that book. And a biography. A biography! I couldn’t believe I had a biography. Since I hadn’t done anything notable, it was just full of my favourite books, and vague ambitions (which turned out not to last) of working in publishing.
Anyway, that short story was a reworking of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, perhaps a bit too ‘adult’ to be described here (I’m not worried about you, young people who might be reading this, but about your sensitive parents, who may never have heard of the kind of things that happened in that story); the important point is, there was a twist at the end.
And a pretty good twist, even though I say so myself, and it’s bad to brag (unless you happen to have written a story with a really pretty great twist.)
Twists, to me, are the great and awesome difference between short-story writing and longer types of writing. My favourite short stories, from Saki to Roald Dahl, were the ones where the last page – the last line – or, even better, the last word – made you rethink the whole thing and go So THAT’S what was going on!
Twists can be funny, tragic, scary, weird or even completely nonsensical. A great example of a nonsensical twist is Alphonse Allais’ A Very Parisian Drama. In that story, Raoul and Marguerite, who form a rather unhappy couple, each receive an anonymous letter. Marguerite’s letter says that Raoul will be going to a carnival, in a few nights’ time, dressed as a Templar; Raoul’s letter says that Marguerite will be going to a carnival, in a few nights’ time, dressed as a Congolese boat (don’t ask).
They both decide to go and spy on the other’s behaviour at that mysterious carnival. Raoul decides to dress as a Templar for the occasion – and Marguerite, as a Congolese boat (don’t ask).
At the carnival, a man dressed as a Templar starts flirting with a woman dressed as a Congolese boat. They end up in a room together, and pull down each other’s masks… and then…
“Both at the same time had a scream of surprise – as they failed to recognise the other.
He wasn’t Raoul.
She wasn’t Marguerite.
They apologised profusely to each other, and got to know each other better around a nice little supper, that’s all I can tell you.”
Absurd. And hilarious! The kind of story you can only write over few pages – and make it crisp, concise, and utterly unexpected. Writing this story as a novel would kill it.
Short stories are very hard to craft well. They must be precise, chiselled, impeccably structured, concise and luminous. There’s not enough space to write badly. If you’re going to write a short story because you think it’s easy, don’t do it. You’ll need to have written many novels before writing a short story becomes easy.
For a reader, short stories are brilliant ways of dipping into the imaginations of writers – but don’t think they’re samples of their writing. Writers write differently when they write short stories. They’re more cynical, more cruel, more fun and weirder when they write short stories. Short stories have a tendency to get out the best – and darkest – in people.
I hope you enjoy the twists and turns of Mystery and Mayhem. You’re in for a treat – like a neatly-packaged box of chocolates. Well, some of them might be poisonous, or contain shards of glass or hidden razors – who knows? But it only makes the tasting more exciting. Are you ready to bite?