Top Ten Gifts to Give a Suspense Writer…
With Christmas approaching, let the angst begin. What should you get the mystery or suspense writer on your list? You know, the one who’s perpetually late because the voices in her head speak over the buzzing of the alarm. Or the one who has ink stains branded on his fingertips because he believes that only great writers still craft with a pen and legal pad. As if it isn’t hard enough to find a meaningful gift for your parents who already have everything, you have to add the eccentric writer to your list. Then that writer spends days and nights in the land of mystery and mayhem. Here are ten ideas that will delight any suspense writer.
- Erasable Pens. When one is plotting a murder, it is essential that one have the ability to change and rearrange plans. Erasable pens are a key part. You can kill a character, and with a swipe of the eraser, bring him back to life. When I was a child, there were erasable pens that didn’t work. You could rub the eraser bit over the paper and smear the ink everywhere, but it wasn’t actually going to remove what you’d written. Today there’s a new dawn in the world of erasable ink, and it’s a beautiful gift for writers. I love to use the rainbow of Frixion pens as I’m plotting. A different color for each thread. Too much pink and not enough black? Time to put some suspense and mystery in between romantic scenes. Too much green and not enough blue? Time to get the hero back on the page. I adore these pens and think they are perfect for every writer.
- A Laptop. This is an essential tool of the trade. While some rare writers still prefer paper and pencil or perfectly balanced pen, most authors I know default to a laptop. Even if we have a stockpile of erasable pens, typing is so much faster than handwriting, and we must get every word, sense, and emotion on the page at a speed that rivals the fastest train. Five hundred words an hour? Insufficient! Batteries running out on the wireless keyboard? Unacceptable! There are words to write and the faster the better! And if I can do research that will make government agencies nervous while I’m working, all the better.
- A Comfortable Chair. So many hours are spent in a chair that the writer’s lower back will be grateful for a chair with lumbar support. The armrests must slide perfectly beneath the desk. The seat must lower so that the author’s feet rest primly on the floor, and the cushion must be sufficiently thick to protect the author’s backside from another marathon round of creating mayhem and suspense for readers everywhere.
- A Writer’s Day at the FBI or Any Other Law Enforcement Agency. Many writers want to get the details right. A great way to do that is to be trained by those who actually do the work. Many writers’ conferences will have a law enforcement officer teach. Others have entire days dedicated to it. Send your writer there, and he or she will be thrilled to learn all the details of what the pros do.
- A Research Trip. Location matters. Readers will know if your favorite writer cheats or doesn’t really know a location. Treat her to a research trip to the setting of her next book, and she will swoon.
- A Gift Card to a Favorite Crime Bookstore. You know the place. It’s where crime writers get inspiration. It’s where they learn tricks of the trade when they’re unable to do #4 above. It’s where they meet with like-minded individuals. Send them there with money to spend, and you’ll lose them.
- Movie Tickets. Sometimes a writer needs inspiration of the visual sort. We need to see how a plot could unfold. We need to look for twists and red herrings. We need to hear an audience react. Movies are a great way to do this. And see #8 below. Sometimes you simply must remove the writer from the computer. It’s essential to mental health and well-being.
- “How to Host a Murder” Board Games. Writing is introverted work. It’s the writer and the screen for hours on end. Sometimes a writer needs exposure to other humans. What better way to get it than to role-play a murder with six to nine of your besties. Try it. You’ll thank me when you do.
- An Editor Who is Firmly in the Author’s Court. This editor should also push, prompt, and prod that same author to craft the best possible suspense author. No book is great on its own. Writers need partners who help massage the story to life and challenge them when something is not working. If it doesn’t pass the believability test with an editor, it probably won’t with a reader. An editor can tease out a great story or bury it in dust and ruin.
- Life is so full and busy. Everyone needs more time, but writers do especially. With research, writing, editing, plotting, kicking cabinets, marketing, and more, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for things like sleeping and eating. Coffee with friends. Reading other people’s books. Time would be the best gift of all.
Most suspense and crime authors I know would be delighted with any of these tools that would allow them to spend more time doing what they love: creating characters, worlds, crimes, and stories that resonate with readers.
The award-winning author of more than 25 titles, Cara Putman writes legal thrillers, WWII romances, and romantic suspense including her newest book, Imperfect Justice. When she’s not writing, Cara is an attorney who lectures in law and communications at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University and homeschools her children.