Some very basic ideas to help you plot a mystery.
PROVIDE COMPELLING CHARACTERS:
- Every character has at least one secret, although the reader may never learn about it if it doesn’t add to the plot as you go. Set these secrets up before you begin, or, if you’re a non-plotter, you should come up with these secrets as the character appears and before you’ve written much about him or her.
- Most every character is reluctant to talk to the detective for a good reason.
- Every character tells at least one lie when talking to the detective.
- The detective suspects everyone he talks to, finds out if person had motive, opportunity and means. In one out of two interviews or more, he finds a clue and/or red herring–may not know it’s a clue when he notices it. Scatter them around. Use senses–see, hear, smell, taste, touch.
- Most every character the detective talks to has a reasonable motive for murdering the victim.
- Most every character had the opportunity to murder the victim.
- Most every character had the means to murder the victim.
- Several characters implicate another character, either overtly or subvertly. They give possible motive, opportunity, and/or means for other characters.
PROVIDE CONFLICT AND TENSION:
- When the detective asks in interviews about opportunity and means, she upsets suspect.
- When the detective finds an interviewee in a compromising position.
- When bad guy begins to stalk detective.
- When police become annoyed at detective for interfering.
- At least one unique location.
- One character at least with a unique/interesting occupation or hobby.
- One character who is quirky or funny or eccentric.
All the above is a start. But I believe if you use most or all of these ideas, your story will be richer and better for it.
These are wonderful suggestions, helpful to new mystery writers, great reminders for the veterans. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.
Thank you for coming by again, Jacqueline–it’s always great to see your smiling face.
Jan, an excellent post. I think you should put together a small ebook of some of your “how to” posts and then sell it on Amazon.
Most recent spoof: “Chimps Demand Retirement Party” http://is.gd/XPYd14
Thanks, Gail. If I ever have a spare minute or two, I’d do what you suggest about a collection of these posts. Now I’m off to read your latest spoof!. Time for some fun!!
Great stuff, Jan, as usual. I need to save this post and use it as a check list. Thanks much.
Thanks, Earl. I appreciate your commenting.
Good suggestions, Jan. Beneficial reminders for everyone from the novice to the pro.
Thanks for stopping by J.R. Glad you liked the post.
Jan, you’re a genius! This is really, really good stuff. Thanks!
Kaye, my head’s about to explode! LOL Thanks for saying that. You made my day, no my whole week.
These are great points, and (like Earl) I have copied them and put them into my “Writing” folder. Plotting is always a struggle for me. Thanks!
Hope it helps, Larry. Good luck! And thanks for commenting.
I enjoyed your post, Jan. Thanks for the quick, convenient checklist of reminders.
B.K., glad you liked it and hope it’s helpful. I find it helpful to write these things!
Great list Jan! We all need to be reminded of these things from time to time!
Thanks, Chris. Good to see you here. Hope all is well with you.
Great list, Jan! I especially found the ‘secrets’ a good addition to characterization.
Nancy, I had one of those ah-ha moments when I read the Agatha Christi quote: “Everyone has something to hide.” After some more struggle writing mysteries, I decided to make sure all my suspects had secrets. Writing is never easy, but this has made it a bit easier, I think. Thanks for commenting.
Great post, Jan! A few points I knew in my head, but hadn’t seen writing down before. Thanks for providing a very useful list.