Crossword Puzzles or a Writer’s Research


by: Donnell Ann Bell 

“What’s a three-letter word for expert?” my husband asks as
I’m getting a glass of water before returning to my office. I stiffen. Here it
comes, where I should be concentrating on three letters my brain turns into a
giant mushroom cloud and I think of every word under the sun meaning expert, including, adept, proficient, and skillful, sans one with three letters.

“You know,” he says, reading glasses perched on his nose, “Daily mind games keep your mind sharp.”

I swallow some of my water and say, “So you’ve said. See you
later, you know where I’ll be.”

What he doesn’t get is that while he works crosswords, Sudoku
and other puzzles our doctors insist keep our minds sharp, I work mind games
all day long.

I do research!  What’s
more the research I do has to. . . you guessed it . . . fit into a puzzle.  Further, that research has to appear seamless
and relevant, or you can come up with a pacing problem or worse, tell the
reader you’re DOING research.  As a new
writer years ago, my critique partner laid a dreadful accusation at my feet,
saying, “Your research is showing.”

Talk about red-faced. You never ever want your research to
show. It’s akin to a plumber’s crack or a piece of toilet paper clinging to your

Here’s something that puzzles me, and I’ve often asked
myself why I don’t write less complicated books. The only answer I’ve come up
with is I love suspense, police procedure and want to address the topics
that interest me in my writing.  I want to understand
more divergent topics that I normally wouldn’t come across in my ordinary world. I
love thwarting my protagonists, then watching THEM work to outwit the

Wouldn’t it be incredible to hold all the answers in our
heads as we wrote our novels? Certainly would be simpler and imagine the productivity. But then, what fun
would that be? And how would existing knowledge stretch our imaginations? I
love discovering new avenues, further knocking around the plot with Lois Winston, my very smart critique partner, then brainstorming with experts.

One thing my husband and I are fairly equal at is Jeopardy. We watch it most evenings at 6 p.m. What’s a three-letter word for
expert? Try ACE.  Do you love puzzles? Research?
Both? Something else that keeps your
brain churning? I’d love to know.

About the Author:  Donnell Ann Bell gave up her nonfiction career in newspapers
and magazines because she was obsessed with the idea she could write a mystery or
thriller. Years later, she is an award-winning author, including a 2020 Colorado Book Award
finalist for her latest release Black Pearl, a Cold Case Suspense. Donnell’s
other books include Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and the Past Came
Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently she’s submitted
book two of her cold case series to her publisher and is hard at work researching book

13 replies
    • Donnell Ann Bell
      Donnell Ann Bell says:

      Just figured out your "pro" remark, Barbara, you're a natural at crosswords 🙂

  1. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    Crossword puzzles, game shows, and writing mysteries–all help keep the brain working like a pro, an ace, or an expert! Great post!

    • Donnell Ann Bell
      Donnell Ann Bell says:

      So true, Saralyn! or for the mystery series watcher, figuring out the who-dun-it!

  2. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    Yes, I love puzzles. When I'm through writing for the day and don't have energy for anything else, a crossword or other brain teaser is my go-to relaxation. They do keep the mind going, but they don't feel like work. Good post, Donnell.

    • Donnell Ann Bell
      Donnell Ann Bell says:

      So true, Gay, thank you! Maybe I should keep one by my bedside when my mind refuses to turn off. I reach for a book instead.

  3. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    Donnell, I'm with you… leave the brain teasers, crosswords (except occasionally), etc. for others…. give me google, research, and a good book (or maybe a magazine in the bathtub … tmi?).

    • Donnell Ann Bell
      Donnell Ann Bell says:

      Ha! Wherever you want to read, at least you're reading! Research takes a lot of time!

  4. Mary Garrett
    Mary Garrett says:

    I also thought "pro." I do puzzles in ink, because pencil is hard to see, but I use red, so if I've erred, I can cover it with blue or black. 😉 Mysteries are the great puzzles, and life is the ultimate one.

  5. Kathleen Kaska
    Kathleen Kaska says:

    I like to think that writing mysteries is a great way to keep my brain sharp. But I know that testing the brain in a different way, or figuring out a problem in a subject I dislike is probably better. Example: I visited my math-teacher sister and I asked her to explain the basics of calculus—I begged and pleaded my way through college calculus—and after about ten minutes of her telling me how I could use calculus, I got a headache.

Comments are closed.