Guest Chick: Karen Whalen

We are pleased as punch to welcome Karen Whalen to Chicks today! Karen is the doubly (or triply or quadruple-y) talented author of two mysteries series, including The Tow Truck Murder Mysteries and its fabulous new release Toes on the Dash. Today Karen asks our point of view on writerly points of view.

Take it away, Karen!

I love writing from the first person point of view (POV). I prefer to read fiction in first person, too. Some readers will not read a book if it is written in a POV they dislike.

In first person POV, the main character tells the story from their own perspective. First person allows the reader to experience the events at the same time as the main character. There’s a close relationship between that character and readers who get to absorb the character’s thoughts and feelings in real time. This creates an intimacy with the story, like the main character is actually speaking to you. When the main character has an exciting voice (their unique way of speaking), the story turns into a page-turner the reader can’t put down.

But, if the main character is an amateur sleuth in a cozy mystery, like Delaney Morran in my new series, the Tow Truck Murder Mysteries, how can she uncover the killer’s identity and still keep the reader in suspense? In first person POV, there’s no delay between the sleuth discovering who the killer is and disclosing it to the reader. So, how can the reader be surprised?

One way is for the amateur sleuth to be surprised herself when the killer is revealed.

But when that happens, the amateur sleuth doesn’t actually solve the crime, she just stumbles upon the solution. All those clues she uncovered—all the sneaking around and conducting her own investigation without the police knowing—all of that was for nothing? She simply happens upon the killer by chance? A writer of a mystery series might be able to get away with that once, but any additional stories would lose credibility and the reader would feel cheated. I mean, total BS alert. That’s no fun. Amiright?

So, the amateur sleuth must actually solve the crime, and the reader is right there with her when she does.

I like to use an aha moment to achieve this. Near the end of the main character’s investigation, she uses her high level of intuition to solve the crime before the reader has a chance to put it together, or the killer makes a mistake and admits to some fact only the killer would know, or an otherwise seemingly innocent character, perhaps one that the main character trusted or counted as a friend, suddenly has means, motive, and opportunity, making that character the obvious killer, but in a surprising way. The aha moment. Hopefully the reader is surprised, but the amateur sleuth is not. She figured it out using her unique abilities and experience. She’s a great amateur sleuth! One the reader will follow by reading the next book in the series.

A different approach I should mention is when the reader solves the crime before the amateur sleuth does. This creates tension when the reader is yelling at the main character to realize she is in danger and that the killer is right there in front of her! This is another technique that should be used sparingly, though. We want our sleuth to be a great and wonderful solver of the crime, remember?

I wrote Toes on the Dash, the first book in the tow truck series, in first person POV, of course. She’s an insecure woman in her late-twenties, trying to find a new career in the tow truck business after inheriting a truck from the dad she’s never known. Hauling cars for suspicious characters provides plenty of opportunities to discover dead bodies, and solving the crime before the sheriff does is her secret power, like being able to wear high-heels while operating a tow truck.

And there was no question in my mind that the story needed to be told from Delaney’s perspective.

What about you? Which POV do you prefer to read?

About Karen:

I am the author of two mystery series for The Wild Rose Press: the Dinner Club Mysteries featuring Jane Marsh, an empty nester who hosts a gourmet dinner club, and the Tow Truck Mysteries starring Delaney Moran, a super feminine shoe-a-holic who drives a tow truck. Both are cozy mysteries about strong friendships and family ties set in Colorado. The first book in the Dinner Club series tied for First Place in the Suspense Novel category of the 2017 IDA Contest sponsored by Oklahoma Romance Writers of America. I worked for many years as a paralegal at a law firm in Denver, Colorado. I have been a columnist and regular contributor to The National Paralegal Reporter magazine. I love to host dinner clubs, entertain friends, ride bicycles, hike in the mountains, walk on the beach, and read cozy murder mysteries. 

About Toes on the Dash:

Super-feminine and confirmed shoe-a-holic Delaney Morran receives an unexpected inheritance—the keys to a tow truck from a dad she’s never known. Even though she hasn’t changed a tire, or even driven any kind of a truck, she’s determined to make the rough and dangerous business a success. When she hauls a vehicle with the body of her jerk-of-an ex hidden in the trunk, the small-town cops in Spruce Ridge, Colorado do not believe this a coincidence. They have her in their headlights as the prime suspect. When the news hits, her business stalls. As a woman trying to make a living in a man’s world, she drives her rig in four-inch-heels to set herself apart. But she must toughen up her image and solve the crime or she’ll end up parked in jail.

50 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Karen Whalen

  1. Thanks for visiting, Karen. I totally free that the protagonist has to solve the mystery. That’s their one job, lol! As to voice, I write third person. It’s funny how we all have different reasons why we prefer a voice. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter as long as the reader is along for the ride!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. In my first series (the dinner club mysteries) I wrote in third person, but I felt my protagonist talking to me in first person in the tow truck series. I didn’t have a choice! Hope the reader understands….

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Loving that cover, Karen. I write two series for Kensington–one in first person and the other in third. My Witch City Mystery series (Book #13 in progress) is in first person and my newest series, Haunted Haven Mysteries ( Book #3 in the planning stages) is in third. I enjoy reading–and writing–in each POV.

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  3. Welcome, Karen! I don’t have a preference for a POV as a reader. As I writer, I have one series in a close third-person POV, alternating between the two main protagonists, and one in first-person. I let the needs of the story dictate the choice.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi, Karen! Great to have you here. I’ve written one series in first person and another in third and have enjoyed the challenges both POVs present. As a reader, I don’t have a preference. Fabulous stories can be written both ways. Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. As a reader, I read and enjoy all POVs. I love reading series books, and feel connected to the characters no matter how the books are written. One that I read a year ago, though, was VERY different. Each scene was written from the POV of ALL the mail characters. The chapter title was the name of the person whose eyes we were looking through. It was pretty interesting. It took place in a retirement home, and the characters were a hoot.
    Your new series sounds wonderful and very original. I used to work in the Automotive industry, and would often put up displays, wash tires and such wearing a dress, that is until I was told to wear a uniform. My motto was “I can do anything a man can do, and I can do it in heels” I have to admit, it was easier in steel toed boots. LOL! I can’t wait to check out your new book.
    Carol

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks Mark. Usually in my first draft of the “killer reveal” scene the protagonist does guess at the identity of the killer. Then I have to rewrite it to make sure she figures it out, that it’s not just a guess. The “guess” solution is easier. It’s harder to write it the other way, but it’s better.

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  6. Hi Karen! *waving madly* I remember you talking about your tow truck series when it was just a nugget of an idea so I CAN’T WAIT to read it!

    For me, as a reader, I like to read all kinds of POV. I trust the author to have chosen the best one for the story and for them. As a writer, though, I’ve written in 1st, 3rd, and multi and I’ve gotta say, 1st person was the most difficult for the reasons you mention. It might call to me again, but for now I’m sticking to 3rd and multi!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for your illuminating post on POV, Karen.
    When I started the Natalie McMasters Mysteries, I chose 1st person POV mainly because it’s the venerable POV of most hard-boiled detective stories. However, a curious thing happened as the series grew. More secondary characters were introduced and their doings became important to the story too. Finally, I wrote a story where Nattie was rendered unconscious by the bad guy, and would be absent for hours. I wanted to show the effect of that on her friends, so I had to continue the story from the POV of another character. I thought that two first person POVs would really be confusing, so I used a third person POV and it worked wonderfully. Flash forward to my last book, Killers!. It has four distinct POVs – Nattie in 1st person and three other characters, each in third person. It tells four separate intertwining stories that come together at the end. It was challenging to juggle all the stories, but I managed it and it was very satisfying. My latest Natalie McMasters book, Sister!, uses the same technique.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I originally started my first Sally Solari mystery in the third person, but when it didn’t seem to be working, I switched the the first person, and that somehow brought the voice–and story–alive. Funny, how that can be the case. But I’m happy to read books written from and POV, as long as they keep me interested.

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Karen, and congrats on the new release! Love the premise!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m here! I like following your thought process and how you take it back to Delaney. I’ve been writing in my 4 POV book this morning and remembering our conversation. I like 1st person because it immerses me in who they are. I find I get to know them better this way.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I am so remiss in not reading Toe on the Dash, Karen, It’s moved up to high on my Eiffel Tower-sized reading list. Love the plot behind your amateur sleuth, and as long as the author tells a compelling story and does first person well, I’m a satisfied reader. First person is hard. First person requires a very disciplined approach, as other POVs can’t come in and help advance the story forward. There’s a really talent to that particular voice! Can’t wait to see how you handle yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I enjoy first person. And I’ve never felt cheated when the main character figures out the killer. Like you, I feel that is something that needs to be done for a mystery to truly be solved by the main character. Great tips on doing that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mark. Usually in my first draft of the “killer reveal” scene the protagonist does guess at the identity of the killer. Then I have to rewrite it to make sure she figures it out, that it’s not just a guess. The “guess” solution is easier. It’s harder to write it the other way, but it’s better.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Karen, I really enjoyed this post. I’ve written a few short stories in first person but I’ve never spent a whole novel’s worth in one person’s head. I admire you for that. AND I can’t wait to read your book! I love that cover and the description sounds like such a fun read. Thanks for giving me another book to read this summer! All best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post and congratulations on your new series, Karen! I remember when you brought the blurb to a SinC-CO meeting a few years back to have the agent presenting that day to help elevate it. I remember thinking what a great original idea for a cozy mystery series and I’m so glad that it happened!

    In answer to your question, I read all POV’s, but I mostly write in third POV. I don’t why, but I feel closer to the character that way. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post, Karen — thanks for hanging out today with the Chicks! I agree that the story determines the POV. My current WIP has multiple POV, which is a new challenge for me.
    In my early drafts of the Liv & Di series I tried to alternate POV between Liv & Di, but it wasn’t working. When I figured out it was Liv’s story to tell everything started to fall into place!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can’t wait for your new WIP, Vickie!! I had the double-sleuth POV dilemma, too, with the Ladies Smythe & Westin. Ultimately settled on alternating close-3rd for both Summer and Dorothy.

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  15. Hi Karen, it’s so nice to meet you and your characters here on Chicks—welcome, and thanks for hanging out with us. Great tips, and your series sound awesome. (That’s one killer cover, too!) All three of my WIPs right now are in first-person. I have to watch on occasion that none of my MCs sound too much like me. Or at least not the same me.

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  16. Thanks for being on the Chicks today, Karen! Congrats on your latest book!

    Great tips about POV, especially with amateur sleuths. When writing cozies, I tend to stick to 1st person or 3rd person. When reading, anything goes!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Karen, I enjoyed your guest post so much! As a reader, I ‘m happy to be along for the ride with stories told in either first or third person. I like an amateur detective to figure out whodunit, not merely stumble upon the answer. BTW, I noticed you’re published with The Wild Rose Press. I’m waiting to see Galley 1 of my first amateur detective mystery with TWRP. No release date yet.

    Like

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