Tag Archive for: #DetectiveParrottMysteryseries

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Write What You Know

by Saralyn Richard

Back in the day, there were certain rules a writer had
to observe. Show, don’t tell. Always use complete sentences. Write what you

The logic behind these rules was impeccable, and, all
innovation to the contrary, most writers still observe them today, at least
most of the time.

When my Detective Parrott Mystery series, including
readers assumed I was a part of the country’s top one percent. Otherwise, how
did I know so many of the details surrounding how the rich and powerful
dressed, ate, drank, and partied?

Truthfully, I did attend an elegant party in Brandywine
Valley, and that inspired the party in MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, but all of
the details about the one percent came from research. (Sorry to disappoint,
but, no, I do not have fifty pairs of Christian Louboutin heels in my closet.)

How did I portray all of the books’ characters and
home interiors so authentically? I observed, I asked questions, and I shopped
online at all of the most exclusive stores (without spending a dime).

I’ve been asked many times how I was able to depict
Detective Oliver Parrott so genuinely, since I am neither young, male, nor
African-American. That must have been a real departure from writing what you
know, right? Wrong.

As an urban high school educator, I’ve known hundreds,
maybe thousands, of young African-American males, many of them as intelligent,
ambitious, hard-working, and down-to-earth as Detective Parrott. I’ve known
their struggles, their families, and their dreams. I’ve celebrated their joys
and grieved their sorrows. I’ve listened to them speak and watched them perform.

Detective Parrott is an amalgamation of many fine
young men who have taken their places in society and who strive to make a
difference with their lives. He is definitely an example of writing what I

Similarly, I drew from my experiences as a teacher,
administrator, and school improvement consultant in urban high schools to write
the upcoming release, A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL. Although the story is fictional,
it pulls back the curtain on the joys and challenges within a large school
community, and the issues of gangs, grievances, sexual harassment, and race are
ever-so relevant today.

Whether I’m writing about billionaire playboys or disadvantaged
football players, whether I researched or remembered, I’m writing what I know. And
I hope my characters will resonate with you, too.

books have you read that transported you out of your own experience?


Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard has
drawn from her experiences as an urban high school educator to write A Murder of Principal. Her previous
books, Naughty Nana, Murder in the One Percent, and A Palette for Love and Murder, have
delighted children and adults, alike. An active member of International
Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative
writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write
mysteries. Reviews, media, and tour schedule may be found at http://saralynrichard.com.

A maverick principal comes to Lincoln High School with a student-centered agenda. Trouble ensues, and killing the principal is just the beginning. A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL is available for pre-order at https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Principal-Saralyn-Richard-ebook/dp/B08KWLZ9JP/ref=



What Makes Excellent Writing?

Makes Excellent Writing?
Saralyn Richard

I’ve taught creative
writing off and on for years. It was an elective for upper class students in a
large suburban Chicago high school. Part of our curriculum was to produce a
literary magazine each year, and we entered our work in a National Council of
Teachers of English contest. Oftentimes we won awards for our content or
layout, and quite a few of my students went on to become successful writers.
Now I teach creative
writing to adults aged 55 or older at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
I’m finding the learners to be extremely motivated. The problem for them is not
choosing what to write about, but choosing which of many ideas and experiences
to write about first. My learners are serious, thoughtful, observant,
experienced, and well-read. Their responses to assignments are creative and
clever, worthy of being submitted for contests or publication.
I’m often asked what
makes excellent creative writing, and when I consider possible replies, I find
the same things apply to both high school writers and adult writers.

The first element of fine
writing, in my opinion, is the ability to imagine and bring to life one or more
relatable characters. These characters do not have to be alter-egos of the
author who creates them. They don’t even need to be the same gender, race,
creed, or age. They don’t need to be perfect; in fact, perfection would be a
detriment to being relatable for readers.
How do authors come out
of themselves enough to paint a realistic word-portrait of characters who are
unlike them? The process for me is similar to what an actor does in assuming a
role for a play. When I’m writing about a character, I immerse myself into the
body and mind of that person. I lose my own identity as I write the scenes
where my character speaks and thinks and acts.

Another fine point of
excellent writing is awareness of theme. I use the term “theme” to mean the
overall purpose for the story. When the author consciously crafts the writing
based on a specific purpose, all of the narration, exposition, description, and
dialogue fall into place, unifying the readers’ experience. I’ve read many sagas
that took me across generations and geographical locations without tying the
chapters and sections together, and they’ve left me wondering about the
author’s intent. My favorite tales lead me to some truth, some higher awareness
about life or people.
Of course there are many
other important strategies and methods in a writer’s toolkit. As a creative
writing teacher, I encourage my students to practice them all. As a writer,
myself, I strive to do the same. The two books in the Detective Oliver Parrott Mystery
series, Murder in the One Percent and
A Palette for Love and Murder, have
thoroughly imagined characters and (hopefully) articulated themes.

I’m excited to discuss
these and other topics with the Stiletto Gang readers. Whatever questions you
have about creative writing, I’m interested. 


Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, is a
writer who teaches on the side. Her books, Naughty
, Murder in the One Percent,
and A Palette for Love and Murder,
have delighted children and adults, alike. A member of International Thriller
Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing at the
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write mysteries. Reviews,
media, and tour schedule may be found at

Follow Saralyn at:

 “A compelling story of worlds in collision, A Palette for Love and Murder plumbs the depths of love and the
human heart.”

Kent Krueger
, author
This Tender Land

“Delightful! Saralyn Richard weaves a deeply twisty mystery around
vibrant characters that will leave readers looking forward to more.” —LynDee
Walker, Agatha Award-nominated author of Front
Page Fatality

“Smart, stylish and sexy, this art world caper
delights with its verve and wit. The character studies are wonderful, and
Oliver and Tonya Parrott are an irresistible pair.”                                           – Ausma Zehanat Khan,
author of 
A Deadly Divide