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This week: Character-izing CluesEdited by: Kate=Secret Pal ~ 1063838
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"All that I see or seem is but a dream within a dream"
Edgar Alan Poe
Welcome to this week's edition of the Mystery Newsletter. A mystery by nature is a question in search of an answer - a puzzle! And when we uncover the answer to the question, effectively solving the puzzle moments before the writer gives us the solution, follow clues tactile and cerebral, the momentary satisfaction is sublime! And we can frolic and have fun along the way.
A mystery is solved by finding and connecting a series of clues, while discarding the few red herrings tossed in to keep the sleuth - and your readers - on his/her/their toes.
Some of the most salient (and often exasperating to uncover) clues are found within the reality (or fiction) of the characters - the good guys and the bad - that weave the path that leads to solving the puzzle.
Let's start with the "good guy"
This character needs to be someone the readers can admire for his intellect, initiative, and resourcefulness and yet still relate to on an empathic level for the flaws, foibles, and personal demons he needs to overcome. Whatever your sleuth is most afraid of--heights, snakes, clowns--needs to figure prominently as an obstacle to unmasking the villain. Ask yourself what terrifies you the most as well as what risks you'd take to protect and/or prove the innocence of someone you loved. Identify how a villain might learn of your phobia(s) and use them against you.
Next, consider the 'bad guy(s)
The best villains in mysteries are often those closest to the person trying to solve the crime--the partner, the spouse, the best friend. Their motives for performing bad deeds need to be just as compelling and plausible as the hero's determination to bring them to justice. When readers exclaim in surprise, "I never suspected her at all," it's because fictional murderers, thieves, and kidnappers are often depicted as kind, upstanding citizens with a zealous moral center that belies a dark vendetta. Try this by making a list of five or ten people you personally know who could get away with the perfect crime, what that perfect crime would be, and what in their lives could trip them up or reveal motives/clues for a puzzle to solve.
Both the 'good guy(s)' and the 'bad guy(s)' have lives and dreams and secrets. Show a bit of their lives - share a bit of their vision and dreams - their stories. The interaction of the characters - 'good' and 'bad' - via conversation, action, lack of action, hiding and revealing themselves - can offer clues (and mis-cues) to solving the puzzle for your sleuth and readers.
Give it a try - engage your characters - and readers - in a mystery where some of the clues (and mis-cues) are found in the characters themselves
Kate=Secret Pal ~ 1063838
Check out some of the puzzling mysteries woven of clues - proffered by the characters brought to life by members of our Community - and interact with the puzzle by sharing your comments with the authors - engage the characters and the writers. Then, try puzzling your own mystery - clueing in your characters
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Thank you for exploring the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys' and even those 'guys' who are ambiguous, yet revealing
Until we next meet, may your clues be sound,
and may herrings not confound
your characters, as their lives are unbound
Kate=Secret Pal ~ 1063838
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