Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Deepening the Mystery

by Paul Anthony Shortt, @PAShortt

While I’m not a mystery writer, I have enjoyed including mystery elements in Locked Within Silent Oath. Nathan Shepherd started off his journey investigating mysterious deaths and disappearances. His eidetic memory helps him piece together clues and figure out what his enemies are planning.

Many urban fantasy series include elements of detective fiction. It’s common for the protagonist to have a job, or some form of responsibility, that relates to crime investigation. For Nathan, what started out as a strange death led to the discovery of the supernatural world he was once a part of. One thing which I did, which is a little different to many urban fantasies, was use Nathan’s past-life memories to explore the setting and take that opportunity to make other characters draw him into this world, rather than push him away. It was the antagonists, Dorian and Morningway, who held the mystery, not the world itself.

In Silent Oath, this practice continues. The state of Nathan’s world is laid bare to the reader. He is working to create a new conclave that can protect New York from the Council of Chains. However, there is more mystery to be solved, with the arrival of Athamar, an enemy from Nathan’s previous incarnations, and Elena, the reincarnation of his lost lover. Until his memories fully return, can Nathan trust that these people are who he expects? What is it that drives Athamar to hunt Nathan across lifetimes? Why has it been so long since he and Elena were reborn? And why is it now, when Athamar also returns to bring chaos to the city, that Nathan and Elena have found each other at all?

When creating a series, mystery or not, every answer must lead to another question. This way, the reader is hooked and drawn into the characters’ turmoil. They share the protagonist’s need to find the truth, even when that truth may be difficult to accept.

An ideal mystery has multiple layers. There’s the surface mystery, determining what the villain is up to, why they’re pursuing this goal, and how they plan to achieve it. This is the mystery that is most often actively investigated, the course of events that snares the protagonist’s thoughts and drives them on.

Then there’s the personal mystery. Why does the protagonist have such feelings for another person? Why does the antagonist hate the hero so much? What could the hero have possibly done to turn another person so completely against them? This mystery may only be a mystery to the reader, but in Nathan’s case, because he has not yet remembered all of his past lives, the reader shares in each of his revelations and setbacks. Before this ordeal is over, Nathan will learn things that make him question everything he thought he knew.


A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren't enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life. Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.

Paul lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends. The following year, Jen gave birth to twins, Amy and Erica, and is now expecting their fourth child.
Paul's first novel, Locked Within, was released on November 6th, 2012, by WiDo Publishing. Silent Oath is the second book in this urban fantasy trilogy.


Hope has returned to New York City. Nathan Shepherd leads a small band of dedicated fighters against the Council of Chains and the city's supernatural masters. But it's not enough. Because from the shadows of Nathan's former lives comes an old enemy, one who knows terrible secrets that Nathan has not yet remembered, secrets that could undo everything he has fought for.

Nathan's only chance to uncover the memories of his previous existence, and to conquer these new forces of evil, lies in Elena DeSantis. A woman he has fought beside in past lifetimes. A woman he has loved.
Together, Nathan and Elena are the only future the city has.