Monday, June 3, 2019


By Mary Kennedy                                           

I've had some wonderful experiences researching my books, met some fascinating people and have discovered plot ideas that were a "gift" (as many writers say).  A "gift" plot is something you don't have to slave over; it just comes to you in one piece. Beginning, middle and end, plot, characters, setting, theme and story arc.

Does it happen often? Sadly no. But when it does, I'm always very grateful. Who wouldn't be?

When I was in Key West for a few days researching a children's mystery for Scholastic, I was at my wit's end. The plot had to involve a crime, but it couldn't be drugs or murder, and there couldn't be any hint of alcohol or violence. 

Key West was lovely, peaceful and serene.  It was hard to imagine a crime taking place there. I had an iced tea at Margaritville and pondered my choices. Scribbled a few half-hearted ideas on a napkin and got nowhere.

 Finally I wandered down to the dock and on an impulse took a glass bottom boat ride. A touristy thing to do, but it was sunset and it looked inviting.

They had a narrator on the boat who gave a terrific presentation on the ocean, the ecology, the coral reefs, etc. He was very impressive,not at all what I expected from the host of a glass bottom boat. At the end of his spiel, I introduced myself and told him my dilemma. How in the world could I find a crime in Key West that didn't involve drugs or murder?
It's easy, he told me.

Then he explained what was going on with the coral reef, which is seriously endangered. In fact, coral is so valuable. people were stealing chunks of it and making big bucks. They chartered a small private plane and landed on a desolate point near the shore. Then they filled rowboats with coral they'd chiseled off the reef. One boat could hold a few thousand dollars worth of coral and they went back and forth all night long. And then flew away with their haul.

I ended up using plot in one of my Boxcar Mysteries and am forever indebted to the narrator. By the way, he gave me his card and he was a Ph.D biologist on sabbatical from National Geographic. No wonder he was so knowledgeable!

The perfect "gift plot."

By Mary Kennedy


Ann Mettert said...

Wow! How cool! Meeting the guy...not the stealing of coral.

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

Hi Ann, it was wonderful! I am so glad I chatted with him and he came up with so many creative ideas. Thanks for stopping by!