The Case of the Running Bag - The Creation of Jonas Watcher

The Continental Op was a collection of short stories by Dashiell Hammett which defined the tough-guy private detective for generations to come. Want to write detective adventure stories this is a must read. Take the characters out and place them in another genre and you can create some credible and fascinating stories. Remember to use the as a template, don't plagiarize.

On the Dock By the Bay

I was reading a short story that involved a faithless husband and I found myself asking "What if?". The idea for a story was born and I played with it in my imagination for about a month.

I had the beginning of a novel, but I had yet to develop my private detective. I needed to come up with a way to introduce my hero and make it unique and interesting. Having my main character start out as a derelict wasn't a new idea, and I need to put him into peril immediately. I had to give his introduction something unique and interesting. Then I remembered an article I had read a long time ago.

Discrete Inquiries

A Running Bag
I had already set my time period fo the 1930's. I am a big fan of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. The article I had read had dealt with men who didn't return home after the "Great War" in Europe. The US had maintained a presence in Europe under the guise of the Provost Marshall. The men who didn't return home always had the possibility of being found out. A number of these men were in Europe legally, and a number of them were in Europe illegally. The latter group kept a "bag" that contained clothing, money, and other essentials one might need to make a quick get away. The common term became "a running bag". I now had my title, and a way to move my character forward through the story. "The Case of the Running Bag" seemed to be appropriate. Jonas spent the early part of the novel trying to extricate himself from the situation he found himself caught up in.

An Uninvited Guest

A Man in the Shadows
Everything I have been discussing has been written down in note and outline form.It is at this point that I start to create chapter titles and put down events that take place in a chapter. I am not writing yet, just sketching brief comments that might not even be full sentences yet. Occasionally a line that I like may come to me, and I will put it in quotes letting myself know at a later date that this might be a line in the book. I would start creating Chapter Titles at this point. As I created a title I would try to make such that it had more than one meaning. It might refer to an incident in the chapter, but it would also have a second meaning indicating some kind of irony, or make reference to another work of literature. I make no deliberate reference to it in the novel, but the chapter title might have a touch of foreshadowing.

Paranoia Doesn't Mean You're Wrong

Why is She Pointing That Gun at Me?
As I developed the chapters, they integrate into my outline. A chapter heading followed by a brief description of the action in the chapter. Now as it happens, I am an old fart, but not that old, I was born after the second world war, so the thirties is not a time that I have first-hand knowledge of except for what I have read in books and seen in movies. I like an element of realism in my novels and I like the genre very much. Hollywood had created an element of glamor for the period and I like to include in my story telling. This means I need to do a bit of research. I live in the San Francisco Bay area, but circa 1930, San Francisco was a very different city. To begin with at the beginning of the decade, there was no Bay Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge. Traveling from San Francisco to the east bay was a very different process. Research reveals fascinating information about the area and events. This research also helps in driving where my story will go and can affect what happens next.

After Enlightenment, You Keep Working

A Writer and  his Muse
As I do research I include comments in my outline of things that might be pertinent to the story. The potential downside in doing research is that it in itself can become so interesting that I get taken off course. I find that when that happens I have to get back to the outline and force myself to get back on track. Research will also bring in a new story idea and I have to decide in I want to include it or set it aside for another novel. A new story idea was born and I wasn't even looking for it. When an idea didn't fit in my current novel I took the time to make a note. Later if the idea appeared to have legs, I would give it a working title, and a folder of its own. Then I got back to work on "The Case of the Running Bag". During this process, I had created four additional titles.

What It's Like To Play The Palace

The Palace?
I ended up with eighteen chapter titles, some of which I have used here . While researching about San Francisco, I discovered the Palace Hotel. It will be used in a number of my novels so I did as much research as I could. There is an element of reality and fantasy in my creation and replication of The Palace. I also did a lot of image searching of the hotel. While my palace might not be a true replication of the original I hoped to include the glamor and ambiance where the famous and infamous might mingle.

Once I had my outline in place, I started telling my story. Getting it down on paper. Then I ran it through a grammar and spell checker. Then I started rewriting it. My focus at this time was totally on just this novel. It had to be to do it justice. When I was done, it went back to the grammar and spell checker and then my proofreaders. I have three who read for story, editing, and proofing. Then it comes back to me and I go over it one more time. Then one last pass by grammar and spell checker. Then it goes to CreateSpace for publishing.

My ideas came from a collection of short stories, historical articles about the period, and general research. Some ideas just happened into my imagination appearing out of the ether. Sometimes that is jut how it happens. 

Never Upset An Armed Receptionist

As for the next article in the series, "The Case of the Bourbon Street Hustler - I get to Play with History"

The Case of the Bourbon Street Hustler





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