Writing A Mystery-Thriller Series: Part 4


by mystery-thriller author Mark David, imaginator of The Elements

You can sign up for the occasional Elements newsletter, follow Mark David on Twitter @authorMarkDavid. You can read more about his fiction on The Elements homepage or here on medium.

Prologue: Place and Time

An essay in five parts

Part 1: A Jigsaw Puzzle Without A Picture

Part 2: Drawing the pictures — connecting the dots

Part 3: Prologue: Ice and Fire


This essay is the fourth in a series of five parts — an open dialogue, as much to myself as anyone, a chance to take a bird’s eye view of the whole in writing a Mystery-Thriller series that has taken many years, while I still have a little time left to tweak the first release. It’s a chance to collate pieces of information, ideas about creation, putting them together here to tell what the first book is about. More importantly, I’ll examine why I wrote it and how it is a smaller part of a much, much larger project, being now the prologue to a series of no less than seven books called The Elements.

Bok seemed to weight Ash’s words. ‘There is a Greek text, a very ancient text, Kore Kosmou. It translates as Virgin of the Cosmos. It is written by, I suppose he was a god to many. The author mentions in this book the four elements: Fire, water, air and…’

In this, the fourth part of an essay exploring my thoughts, ideas and processes used in growing a series, I’ll examine in more the detailed aspects of working with an element. Since Beyond The Light Of Reason is the prologue to a series called The Elements — a series as big as any Fantasy out there but working with true to life agendas set in the 20th century.

‘Not many creatures of this world favor fire.’ The smell of earthly decay filling the air with its scent. ‘Would you?’
Ash frowned. He thought about anger and rage. It felt like a lifetime ago. ‘I suppose I might.’
‘You are an earth-person perhaps.’
‘I’ve been called many things, but never an earth-person,’ Ash sat up, leaning forwards, hugging the blanket as he looked down at the boards of the floor at his feet. ‘No, I don’t see myself as an air person. Fire, then.’

As people, or creature. In the Greek text called the Kore Kosmou (“Virgin of the World”) ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus (the name given by the Greeks to the Egyptian god Thoth), are named the four elements fire, water, air, and earth.

And Isis answer made:

Of living things, my son, some are made friends with fire, and some with water, some with air, and some with earth, and some with two or three of these, and some with all. And, on the contrary, again some are made enemies of fire, and some of water, some of earth, and some of air, and some of two of them, and some of three, and some of all. For instance, son, the locust and all flies flee fire; the eagle and the hawk and all high-flying birds flee water; fish, air and earth; the snake avoids the open air. Whereas snakes and all creeping things love earth; all swimming things love water; winged things, air, of which they are the citizens; while those that fly still higher love the fire and have the habitat near it. Not that some of the animals as well do not love fire; for instance salamanders, for they even have their homes in it. It is because one or another of the elements doth form their bodies’ outer envelope. Each soul, accordingly, while it is in its body is weighted and constricted by these four.

My Approach: Why Fire as a prologue is an event in time

not a resolved story

THE PROLOGUE I CALL SIMPLY ‘FIRE’ is not the book people will expect. I’ve examined how it can live up to reader expectations, but it is the way it is and I feel I can’t do much more than serve it the way it is in accordance with my intentions. The bottom line is, the reader is served with a fragmented picture of another universe that can at times be felt but never seen in this book. The word prologue I hope conveys that. Having been through it again, I can’t see how I can change that, even if that means we’re missing the relationship antagonist-protagonist. So, the antagonist really aren’t the external forces, since we never access them, but the antagonist’s own agendas and prejudices that conflict with each other.

All the people of the past, what they did, why they did it, are merely suggested not resolved. The reasons in the story universe (written) have been removed for development in the series to which this book is a prologue — The Elements.

Fire is ‘viewed’ as an isolated incident in place and time

It is also connected to people, forces, past events, in a rich multi-colored tapestry — which are mostly written buy are only glimpsed in the mist between the trees. The real game-changer in Fire — the raison d’étre for Fire, is that which is revealed ONLY as the culmination of the series.

Future event Prologue

Fire is future event prologue to a historical timeline series, chronologically working through THE EVENTS in the elements story. There is a difference between Fire and the planned books in the The Elements, which flow conventionally. At one stage, I had a crazy idea of making different versions seeing same story from diff. POV — it wouldn’t take much work, just adding, not taking away. A non-serious idea that was never realized. However, the BIG issue as I see it — is in

raising intrigue as an isolated event

At the 2/3 mark, a storm is what brings a small handful of people together: The enigmatic woodsman, the hired assassin as stealthy as the night itself and the two visitors to the region entrapped within time, place and circumstance, unable to extricate themselves from greater events they have become a part. But also who may or may not be part of the reasons why the circumstances have united here in the first place. That part is not served on a plate is left up to the reader to judge.

When he didn’t receive an answer he said, ‘you could give it a try.’ He settled, resting his hands in front of his lap and fell silent, leaving the impressions of the night to fill the space between them.

It is this feeling of, while being in isolation, still being connected with the collective consciousness of man, that despite circumstance and place, no matter who you are or where you find yourself, your own part in the world and connections with those who have gone before you is always with you.

‘Ikim Agar dedicated his life to study, to learning.’
‘What learning?’
‘Everything learning.’
‘Did you know him?’

‘Fire’ a tale of deceit and perhaps dependency, the first providing the reason for the last as events progress to states of isolation and entrapment, caught in events greater than can be understood.

It is not the sort of book that is ordered

At least, not according to any recipe of dramatic discovery, but works by suggestion and a gradual unravelling of the layers of people and past deeds that have gone on before to define the circumstances of the present. Neither is it the sort of book where characters are easily identified with, since as the detective investigating the crime, we only view them from the limited perspective of discovery: Who they are, why they are here, how their part has a part of play in a world turning to chaos.

He Who Is Fire

In the small pantheon of characters, Ash represents fire, since he is the only character who does not truly desire anything ideological, other than carnal satisfaction: Ash is the one ‘Who Favors Fire’. Though there is also Gustav Wikfors, the dead husband of an enigmatic figure of the past, Anna, who burned down the church of Æsahult . Being another he who favors fire.

Ash hadn’t had a friend in a long time.
‘There is always a tale of life, and death, no matter which part of the world we live in. Of going places, taking the human spirit on a journey.’
‘After we are dead?’
‘We all die.’ Bok turned his mighty head to look at the man next to him. ‘Have you ever wondered why?’
Ash shrugged. ‘Dead is dead.’

Fire is intended to portray a story that works with

the experience of being trapped in a real world

A world we are part of though we would choose not to, be a part of. It is book full of violence, mystery and an element of confusion, about how the part of the person is connected with events external. It is also a book about the connection to ideas and a window into a greater universe waiting to be discovered.

Ice is hate is an element is Sturla, Bok’s father. Touched on, since Ice is not the subject of this book, or is the historical figure Sturla Gotfridsson, which is a part of The Elements. The person who dies, setting the crime and events in motion desires by greed — having a painting forged and is also another one Who Favors Fire, through greed — the forgery — he upsets very carefully laid plans… by the game masters who are not seen, are not revealed, whose motives remain concealed.

The detective is also one who favors fire — because his desire for success is what fails him. There is a key scene moment in the book couple to his fate:

‘Sometimes it is possible to know what will happen. Sometimes not. People’s motives; who they are, what they want. What they will do to get what they want. Without that we are left holding the dice. Then, no one can know, not even the dice.’ Almquist took a deep breath. ‘I guess it’s all part of some… shit, I don’t know what the hell it’s part of.

The enigmatic woodsman is yet another layer of character interpreting fire: Alvar Bok desires the power of fire to destroy the very thing that would destroy them all — the painting which becomes an object to destroy the basis for ideology itself: It is ideology incarnate. Ideology itself — the relic of a past, the past that is The Elements…

Bok nodded as he folded his arms, drawing the blanket in closer around him. ‘It starts by Isis posing a question to her son, the falcon god Horus. She tells him how important it is, to have greater mysteries to which we are but a part.’ The man that looked like a bear smiled then, resting his head back and saying no more.

Fire therefore, offers a first, tentative connection with ideas and events that are greater than the characters in the story, that we as beings are but a brief moment in the greater passage of time and the elements in time:

‘The order of the celestial world is greater than order on earth, she said. Here we must make do with what the elements decree. Some creatures are made enemies of fire, some of water, air and earth. Others are their friends. The snake I remember, is not a friend of air and seeks dark, closed places. It is a friend of the earth. The hawk likes the air very much. On the other hand, fire would not be good to it.’
The clouds shifted so the gaps in the sky grew together and closed, growing so dark Ash had trouble seeing his face. ‘So, going by that logic, some could be friends of fire, then?’

Coming up…

In the last installment in this mini-series, I’ll open up the secret ‘brain junky’ nature of myself that lead to the name of the book and the catalyst for the series being called The Elements at all.

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by mystery-thriller author Mark David, imaginator of The Elements

You can sign up for the occasional Elements newsletter, follow Mark David on Twitter @authorMarkDavid. You can read more about his fiction on The Elements homepage or here on medium.

If you want, contribute to developing the collection Stories To Imagine, working with elements of the imagination from the real world.