M is for Message (Skim to the underlined genre or style that best suits you.)
I strongly suspect this word will be used as a topic by many bloggers today, and for that I apologize. But I’m betting we all handle it in a different way. (At least I hope so.)
Messages can jumpstart a Romance easily, and they don’t have to be from a secret admirer. It can be from a wife or husband letting the other know he or she is the circle of thought right then. (Add the obstacles later–the message going to the wrong person, etc.) Messages don’t have to be written either, but to have any power they still need to be revealed. It might be in the way of a painting created for the object of someone’s affection. It might be turning down a job one character knows the other character wants. Or it might be in the sentimentality behind the gift of a pair of colorful fuzzy socks–maybe that particular gift will remind the receiver of a good time had not long ago. The socks would then be something for your character to consider before she takes a job 1,200 miles away. (Or some other decision that will cause tension.)
Messages have flocked the Mystery genre since forever. Messages can be in code, delivered anonymously and slipped under a door, left by a person’s drink while that person uses the restroom in a bar, or given via E-mail or a voice message. But the message has to mean something to someone. It will somehow tie into the murder that has already happened, or the one about to happen. So, was the message delivered by a hired courier who was hired by another courier who was hired by another, who ultimately was the one hired by the creator of the message? That would certainly make the message-maker a little more difficult for the sleuth to track down.
But what message could be so important, and why is hiding the identity of the creator important, and what would it mean if the message was delivered to the wrong person? What could happen? Maybe it was never meant for the sleuth, but for someone else … And now the sleuth thinks someone in his or her life is in danger. But upon investigating the situation and following leads, he or she begins to wonder if… And yet because now this sleuth knows more than he should, the threat originally not intended for the sleuth is definitely a possibility now.
A message with a Literary slant might have double or triple meaning. To one character the message is salvation, while to another it means jeopardy, and to another it means condemnation. Who are these people and how can one single message have these different meanings to these different people? Do they know each other, or is it simply this message that binds them?
For Children or Young Adults a message can have almost paralyzing power, unless it’s from a secret admirer the character was hoping to meet. But what if it’s a message that reveals a secret the protagonist thought no one else knew? And now he or she has to worry if the secret will spread to the rest of the school population. And what would that mean for the protagonist? Give a little thought as to whom your protagonist is, his or her values, strengths, and weaknesses, and it won’t be hard to come up with a secret that could have a devastating effect.
What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some ideas in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, please share! My readers will appreciate it.