In a mystery, a change happens in the beginning of the book that propels the story forward.
What are the elements in a mystery? A crime, detective, witnesses, suspects. To have suspects you must have motives.
Clues may be physical and psychological. (Hey! A motive!) You can have a chase in your story, where the detective follows the suspect.
Mysteries are the most moral of all genres, because the criminal never wins.
***To make your mystery suspenseful, use short sentences for your exciting scenes.
You may use the “time-running out” idea. (Remember the scene with Dorothy locked away with the flying monkey? Every time the camera showed us the sand running through that glass, our heart quickened several beats . . .)
Put your sleuth in danger.
And the climax is the most dangerous of all. It could be a physical danger, or her reputation.
How to: Plot backwards. Find the solution to your mystery FIRST. Then decide which clues you will show your sleuth.
Plant a clue by burying it. Point your reader’s attention somewhere else. At the end of the story, the reader should be saying, “Gee whiz, now why didn’t I catch that clue?”
Choose one of these to get started:
1. Your story is set in a movie theater. Your main character has just bought a large popcorn and sits down to watch the movie.
2. Carnival music plays, and your main character buys a ticket to ride on the ferris wheel.
3. “Open wide,” says the dentist.
Your main character hears a scream. It isn’t from tooth pain . . .
4. Or use one of your own settings and ideas to write a mystery.
If you’d like to share the first few lines of your mystery story, place them on the comment section of this blog.
Or write in a title or two of your favorite mysteries.
A few of my favorite mystery authors include Dashiell Hammett, Mary Downing Hahn (ghost stories) and Joan Lowery Nixon.