This week: Laying a trail of bread crumbs Edited by: Arakun the Twisted Raccoon
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|Quote for the week:|
"Mystery spread its cloak across the sky.
We lost our way.
Shadows fell from trees.
They knew why."
~From "House of Four Doors" by the Moody Blues
|Half the fun of reading mysteries is trying to figure out the puzzle before the characters. When I read a mystery, I don't want to figure it out too easily, but I don't want to be completely confused even after the solution is revealed either. Ideally, I like to figure it out a split second before the solution is revealed in the story. |
Avoiding plot holes is even more important in mystery writing than other genres. Plot holes bring the reader out of the story, but also can interfere with the readers' detective work as they read. For that reason, mysteries need to be carefully planned and carefully edited. Planning can save you hours of rewriting. In some cases it might save you from abandoning the story altogether due to too many plot holes and inconsistencies.
A mystery author is like an stage magician creating illusions for an audience. The magician used smoke, mirrors, and other techniques to help set up the illusion that one thing is happening and distract the audience from what is actually going on.
While a stage magician never reveals how a trick is done, a mystery writer sets up an illusion but reveals subtle clues to what is actually happening throughout the story. The type of clues and when and how to reveal them will differ depending on the story and the characters. Some clues will lead the reader to the correct solution like a trail of bread crumbs through the forest. Others might intentionally lead them to follow a false path.
You might want set up the illusion that your guilty character is perfectly innocent and kind while planting subtle clues to their true nature. For example, they may show hints of their true nature in seemingly harmless comments that have a double meaning. Or the guilty character might seem sketchy from the beginning, but have an apparent alibi that is later shown to be false.
Red herrings, or false clues, can add to the illusion by distracting the reader from the important clues. If you use red herrings, make sure you eventually explain them or the reader might be confused about the actual solution. For example, if one of your false suspects makes mysterious trips out of town that make them seem guilty, you need to eventually reveal that they were doing something unrelated to the crime. The reader shouldn't finish the story asking, "But what about...?"
Plotting a mystery is half the fun of writing it. Starting out with a plan doesn't mean you can't change the events later if you think of something better. If you do make changes, you just need to make sure they don't mess up the solution or make the story unbelievable.
Something to try: Think of a basic idea for a mystery story and write a plot outline.
|The riddle (E)|
Mystery concerning a will, a beneficiary and a riddle
#2177935 by Sumojo
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