It’s time again for my contribution to this month’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of writers share their writing experiences. You can check out their thoughts by clicking on the icon at the end of my post. This month I discuss the use of props in my soon-to-be-released murder mystery.
What do a 1950 Ford pickup and a ragtop Jeep have to do with writing?
Just as movies and plays use props to provide dramatic interest and depth to characters and scenes, so do novels. A prop is anything movable or portable on a stage or set, distinct from the actors, scenery, and costumes. I use a Ford pickup and a Jeep as props in my upcoming murder mystery, At the River’s Edge.
James Wolsey is a 26-year-old college graduate who returns to his hometown of Sunset Peak, North Carolina to help his single mother run the family hardware business. After mysteriously killing off the historic town’s mayor in chapter one, I introduce James. Most of what you learn about the dark-haired, former high school quarterback is from dialogue and interaction with his mom, friends, and newfound love interest, Emily Edwards.
Readers discover James had planned a career in corporate America, but couldn’t turn down his mother’s request for assistance. He’s trying to make the best of the situation when he meets Emily, the granddaughter of a moonshiner. The spirited, green-eyed blonde is haunted by rumors of moonshine money, allegedly buried by her late grandfather in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Misguided fortune hunters are obsessed with Emily and what she might know.
It’s at this point where James is revealed as the proud owner of his grandfather’s restored, jet black, 1950 Ford pickup, and I place Emily in a red ragtop Jeep. Why bother describing the vehicles James and Emily drive?
The vehicles allow readers to form their own opinions about the characters who own them. Without putting it into words, driving a vintage pickup strengthens James’ image as a rugged fisherman and outdoorsman. It paints him as a man’s man not swayed by fancy cars. You learn that James is proud of the craftsmanship and hard work his late grandfather put into the pickup. It’s his most prized possession, not because of its value, but because of the family history the truck represents.
Emily may be a petite, attractive blonde, but driving an open-air Jeep portrays her as unafraid to travel across rough terrain with the wind in her face. The vehicle fits her spunky, mountain girl demeanor and warns others that she can, and will, take care of herself.
Other props are used throughout the novel to help readers paint their own pictures of the characters and the scenes. What better way to show and not tell.
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