The Digest Enthusiast: “Chase Your Dreams,” from AHMM (June 2016), is a great example of a story that evokes an emotional response. What prompts you to include social commentary in a story? Do themes emerge while writing, or are they part of the initial planning process?
Michael Bracken: I rarely start with a theme and never intentionally include social commentary because to do so runs the risk of turning a story into a sermon or, worse, a polemic.
When I let characters react to situations I put them in, sometimes themes emerge that represent beliefs different than my own, and it’s important to let the story be the story and not have a theme forced onto it that fits my beliefs. (Think about all the great noir movies ruined by nonsensical happy endings because movie makers didn’t think audiences would tolerate themes like “life sucks and then you die.”)
“Chase Your Dreams” presents a strong example of what happens when you build characters from the inside out. The protagonist is a closeted gay man in small-town Texas and his clandestine lover,a man who is out and proud of it, disappears. The protagonist is torn between searching for his lover and the realization that by doing so he will out himself. The theme emerges from the actions the protagonist takes and how the other characters react to those actions.
Alfred Hitchcock June 2016
Linda Landrigan’s Editor’s Notes: It Takes a Village
Michael Bracken “Chase Your Dreams”
Sarah Weinman “Death of a Feminist” art by Tim Foley
Willie Rose: The Mysterious Cipher (solution on page 93)
Martin Limón “The King of K-Pop”
Arlene Fisher: Dying Words acrostic puzzle
Janice Law “A Taste of Murder” art by Linda Weatherly
Mysterious Photograph: Words Taking Flight
Brendan DuBois “A Battlefield Reunion”
Erica Wright “Patsy Cline at Harry’s Last Chance Saloon” art by Ally Hodges
Ruth Chessman “Poor Sherm” (Mystery Classic selected and introduced by Jane K. Cleland)
Robert C. Hahn: Booked & Printed
—Death On a Starry Night by Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden
—Capitol Punishment by Andrew Welsh-Huggins
—The Day After Death by Lynn C. Miller
The Story that Won (Dec. 2015) “A Better Plan” by Charles R. McCrary, Jr.
Coming in AHMM Jul/Aug 2016
Directory of Services/Indicia
Solution to the May “Dying Words”
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine Vol. 61 No. 6 June 2016
Publisher: Peter Kanter
Editor: Linda Landrigan
Senior Assistant Editor: Jackie Sherbow
VP Art & Production: Susan Mangan
Senior AD: Victoria Green
112 pages $4.99
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine website