Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Story Within a Story by Cricket McRae

Thanks for hosting me here at Mystery Writing is Murder, Elizabeth!

My recently released Home Crafting Mystery, Wined and Died, is the fifth in the series. All of my contemporary cozies feature colonial home crafts as the backdrop to the murder mystery, and in this one, it's mead making.

Once I decide on the home craft, the rest of the story comes out of that. Then the subplots emerge as a matter of course. In Wined and Died, Sophie Mae Ambrose and her husband are caring for their housemate's precocious twelve-year-old daughter, Erin Bly. Her subplot does more than flavor the rest of the story. It starts the whole thing, cycles throughout, and ends the book as well.

See, Erin is writing a novel.

I'm not sure how that happened, but when it cropped up in Chapter One, I went with it. It fit with her character, offered opportunities for both conflict and humor, allowed her to be involved in the amateur investigation more than usual, drove Sophie Mae batty, and in the end her jottings afforded a piece of critical information at the right time.

Throughout Wined and Died she follows everyone, writing down what they say and making notes, all the while trying to decide what she's going to write her book about. Sophie Mae gives her plenty of terrible writing advice because Sophie Mae hasn't a clue about how to write a novel.

At the end of the story, I felt Erin needed to share what she had decided to write about, and that meant coming up with a short synopsis that could reasonably be connected to what the reader had just experienced in Wined and Died.

What fun! I sat down, tuned into my inner twelve-year-old, and drew a right-brain-inspired chart full of free associations from events and random details in the book. A YA fantasy plot gradually emerged. It showed how Erin might have creatively interpreted the various scribblings in her notebook, though to literal-minded Sophie Mae the youngster's story has nothing to do with any of their recent adventures.

Mise en abyme is the French term for self-reflexive embeddings in artwork. It refers to the idea of two mirrors facing each other and can be visual, written, or--as in Hamlet--the famous play within a play. I didn't really think about how I was using this age-old device, only that it functioned well. And I sure wasn't thinking about actually writing a YA novel. But now that thought is fluttering at the back of my mind as the result of working out that mystery subplot.

Writers get ideas from everywhere, it seems. Have you ever gotten a different story idea from a story you're writing? Wined and Died_1In honor of the recent release of Wined and Died, you can enter to win a FREE Author Website ($900 value!) from the creative folks at Bizango Websites for Writers until July 29, 2011. For more details and information on how to enter, please visit my blog at For more information about me or the Home Crafting Mystery Series, check out

A former resident of the Pacific Northwest where her novels are set, Cricket McRae has always dabbled in the kind of practical home crafts that were once necessary to everyday life. The magical chemistry of making soap, the satisfaction of canning garden produce, and the sensuout side of fiber arts like spinning an knitting are just a few of the reasons these activities have fascinated her since childhood. As a girl she was as much a fan of Nancy Drew as of Laura Ingalls Wilder, so it's no surprise that her contemporary cozy series features a soap maker with a nose for investigation. For more information about Cricket or the Home Crafting Mystery Series, check out


Thanks so much for your post today, Cricket! You've got me looking forward to trying a story-within-a-story, myself! Looks tricky...but fun. :)