How to Plot a Mystery

This entry is part of a series, Mystery Plotting»

This short post will begin to reveal my process for plotting the perfect murder mystery. Yes, I have the perfect process. I just don’t have it perfected yet…

Actually, building my first full mystery plot been an amazing journey of self-revelation, discovery and learning, as well as a massive truckload of reading. First, non-fiction books on novel construction, story, and specifics of the murder mystery (or mystery, for short). I included books on the thriller and horror genres, simply because a good mystery uses elements of both of those.

Then there’s reading fiction. Mysteries, and as many of the classics as possible. And lots of examples of top-notch fiction writing as well. Not listening, not watching TV or the movies: reading. While all those other media can help, if you intend to write, you better see it written first. Many of these stories I’ve been reading twice in a row, or even three times. First, simply to enjoy. Then, to parse out structure and plot. Then, to see where the really good tricks, twists and clues are seeded in and how they work together.

I’ve not limited myself to novels, though the majority of the words have been constructed in that length. There are many great mystery shorts and novellas too, and learning how to deal with all lengths is a must for a good writer, in my opinion. If nothing else, pushing for dynamic range in pacing, description and resolution is essential in all forms and measures of creative writing. (I didn’t hold that opinion in the past, but I’ve mended my ways.)

In future posts I’ll detail key findings, as well as some of the more interesting milestones I experienced along the journey. I’ll also talk about the details of construction that I use: The materials, the processes, the software and more.

For now, that’s all I’ve got. Stay tuned for the surprise ending!

It’s the Journey That Matters Most…

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