Brendan Whitt

WHEN BRENDAN WHITT THINKS...

Blought #28: Solving Mysteries to Learn Lessons

From left to right: Eric Anderson, Casey Daniels, Laura Walter,
Kevin Keating and Shelly Costa participate in a panel discussion.
During my final semester at Cleveland State I enrolled into Dr. Anup Kumar’s "Specialized Writing" course focusing on writing narrative long form journalism. One of the most important pieces of advice that I can still remember Dr. Kumar offering the class was learning to have the ability to read a piece on a topic that you may not be familiar with, but one that you can learn from. I personally preferred a good op-ed piece on a pressing sports issue while Dr. Kumar made us read an article about Joan Rivers during the first week of the course.

After taking Dr. Kumar’s class I especially learned to appreciate journalism that focused on technology and science even though I need Wikipedia open to fully understand Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves. When Lee Chilcote, co-counder and cordinator of Lirerary Cleveland invited me to Literary Cleveland’s Winter Fictionfest I was elated.  The workshop and mini-conference took place at Loganberry Books on Larchmere in beautiful Shaker Heights and focused mainly on the elements and style of mystery and suspense fiction.


Casey Daniels (left) and Shelly Costa 
(right) pose with their latest releases.
Although I’ve never been a fan of suspense thrillers or mystery novels I knew that these award winners, nominees and educators would offer much needed advice for completing my next short novel. Participants had the choice of choosing between two of the three workshops; A. Beyond the Creaking step hosted by authors Casey Daniels and Shelly Costa, B. You’re creeping me out with authors Kevin Keating and Laura Walter and C. How to Make Everything Go Wrong with educator and author Eric Anderson.

The first workshop on my agenda was Beyond the Creaking Step hosted by cozy fiction authors Casey Daniels, the author of the Pepper Martin mystery series and Shelley Costa a 2004 Edgar nominee for Best Short Story and author of You Cannoli Die Once (Agatha nominee for Best First Novel) and Basil Instinct, talked about how to add suspense to your story.

Eric Anderson leading a discussion
during his session .
As a writer one of the hardest things to do is keeping your reader’s attention. Shelly and Casey emphasized the importance of creating vivid imagery and an atmosphere of anticipation as your character navigates every obstacle you create to derail them from their ultimate goal.

After a brief intermission and a few refreshments everyone went to their second workshop. Eric Anderson, an author and English professor at Lorain Community College whose seminar was similar to that of a M,W,F elective in college, used Ray Bradbury’s August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains and Cormac Mc Carthy’s Blood Meridan as the anchors of his presentation. Characters need distress as their main motivation. As hard as the stories were to follow, I still understood that the characters in the selections had tough decisions to make.

The entire event culminated with a panel discussion from all five of the writers discussing their influences and overall styles. As I finished going over my notes that I had taken while in both of my sessions, Dr. Kumar’s advice playedback in my head. I stepped outside of my literary comfort zone and immersed myself into the dark worlds of mystery and suspense fiction, and I loved it.