This week author JoAnne Myers joins us with her tip. JoAnne works for a nursing home in Ohio, and is the proud author of seven novels and canvas paints.
JoAnne’s Tip on Writing Mystery
Before writing a word, take some time to jot down key story points. As you're writing, the story will want to take on a life of its own. Having a handy reference of key points will help keep your story on track and you from pulling your hair out. A list of key points is also helpful when outlining the story plot. You may very well find that the story begins to unfold as you're writing down the key points. If this happens...let it! Write down any ideas or details that come to you, they'll come in handy later.
Some key points to consider are; what is the mystery? This is the underlying theme to the entire story so be as in-depth as possible (has there been a murder or a theft or a kidnapping? If so, how and where was it committed?).
Hunt for the culprit. Every good story has at least one antagonist, but what steps must the hero or heroine take to find him/her? How will the villain evade the hero? How is the mystery solved? In mystery writing there are a lot of twists and turns. Write down your initial thoughts for plot twists, red herrings to throw the readers off the trail of the true villain, and of course the final stages of how the good guy will prevail...or does he? You need to decide whether or not the hero or the villain wins in the end. Many hero’s die trying to solve their case. Many are involved in physical altercations with other characters. You must decide how many altercations, the number of characters involved, and what weapons if any are used. It is not a good idea to only engage your characters with fist fighting. Throw in some knives, chains, falling from windows, or my favorite, a poisoning, and other nasty assaults.
Every great story has well rounded characters. We read fiction because we want to be entertained and develop a connection with the characters. Outlining items such as personality traits, physical features, and quirks can help bring your characters to life; a speech impediment, or limp, or a nervous twitch.
For the Protagonist, decide the name, age, where does he/she live, does he/she have a family or pets, what is their driving goal for taking on this particular case? Is the hero a police officer, a person sworn to honesty, pride, and valor. Or is the good guy a private detective being paid to find a certain someone. Or your main character could be a parent or sibling searching for a missing loved one.
For the Antagonist, decide the name, age, where does he/she live, is there an underlying reason for being the antagonist? Perhaps this person is a career criminal. On the other hand, maybe he/she is a good person that suffered an unjust and turned to crime out of bitterness and despair.
Then you have your support characters, who are the color of the story. They provide depth to the story whether good or bad. A support character could be as simple as a loud mouth hot dog vendor standing on a street corner or as in-depth as the villain's partner in crime. In writing a mystery story, support characters can take on a life of their own with the reader, so make them interesting. Just because they are labeled support characters does not mean they are any less important than the main characters.
Next is the location of the story. When and where is the story set? These two key elements are what bring your story to life. Mystery story writing is a broad genre and could be set in any time period and in any place. When working with actual locations it is a good idea to do research on the location first. Readers want to feel as though they are there with the characters, so being able to accurately describe a location is vital. Time periods are no exception. If the story is set in 1940's New Orleans, the reader will want to see their surroundings, not just be told the story is taking place in a speakeasy or church. Be descriptive!
A mystery story is not a story without a solid well thought out plot. Some things to consider when developing the story plot: What is the driving force of the mystery? To solve a murder, or rescue a kidnap victim? What does the villain do to thwart the hero? Does the villain get his goons on the hero? Is the hero being set up by the villain and now he is being hunted by police. What other obstacles get in the way of solving the mystery?
One of the most important elements of writing a mystery story is suspense. Giving away too much too soon will bore the reader. It is best if the suspense is sprinkled throughout the story; bring the mystery to light within the first few chapters, then as the story progresses add a clue here and there without revealing the outcome until the final chapter. Do not be afraid to add a "red herring" or false clue, within the stories context. Readers love nothing better than to think they have everything figured out only to find in the end they were mistaken the entire time.
The final few chapters of the story should hold the climax of the conflict and resolution between the hero and villain, including how all of the clues scattered throughout the story cumulatively solves the mystery. A good conclusion gives the reader a sense of closure in finding out how the hero solved the mystery. Remember that not all mysteries have to be completely solved or have a "happy" ending. If you are writing a series of stories, the villain may get away at the end of story #1 with the hero using clues from story #1 to track down the villain in story #2. In mystery story writing, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Excerpt from “The Tarot Card Murders” (One story in Flagitious)
The Scene: Detective Nick Difozzio has been called to another bizarre murder scene, located in the abandoned industrial section of town.
An abrupt silence you could cut with a knife filled the room. “Shape-shifters?” said one from the group. “You mean like a Yeti turns into a deer to avoid those who track it. Or the Lock Ness monster turns into a log.”
After Ted and the others poked fun at his fantastic idea, Nick laid it out, “Not exactly. But certain creatures are believed to have shape-shifting powers of one sort or another, and what other possibility is there to explain these bizarre murders?”
“Well, we could have a psychopath lurkin’ around. Or a nutty drifter or escaped convict,” Ted said. “But it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand that, if shape-shifters do exit, they would be very elusive creatures, nearly impossible to detect and capture. What does take a lot of imagination, is believing in shape-shifters.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ll see ya tomorrow,” Nick said. Once outside, he noticed the full moon, and wondered, who will die tonight? On reaching his vehicle, he discovered a surprise in his passenger seat.
“Denise, what’s going on?” he asked via the driver’s window.
With teeth white as snow, she said, “Well, sugar, I was thinkin’ about the last time you were at my house. You remember, when you cabbaged my safe contents so foolishly?”
With a chuckle, he nodded. “Honey, the only foolish thing I did that night was fail to realize the money in the safe was counterfeit. But I bet it’s all gone now.”
“And I bet you’re right,” she smiled. Just then, Denise’ partner in crime, twenty-two-year-old Wendy Goss zapped the lawman with a stun gun from behind, dropping him like a hot potato.
Jumping from the vehicle, Denise removed Nick’s gun and cell phone, placing them under the seat. Afterward, both women placed him in the backseat. Getting behind the steering wheel of Nick’s car, Denise drove his Mustang, while Wendy followed in her Firebird.
Halfway to the destination spot, Nick regained consciousness. With his gun gone, he played dead, hoping to find the gang’s hangout. Soon both vehicles stopped. Denise exited the Ford then helped Wendy search the Firebird’s trunk, for items needed for Nick’s demise.
“Someone better keep an eye on the cop,” Wendy said.
“Don’t worry, that pig’s out cold,” Denise said, finding rope. Peering out the back window, Nick realized he was on an abandoned farm. Searching for landmarks, he memorized a foreclosure sign reading Stonewall Realty.
Uncertain if the girls were armed, Nick made the decision to strike now or never. Disabling his car’s dome light, he cautiously retreated from the backseat. As quiet as a mouse, he snuck up on the chattering women foraging for items to gag and bind him.
As soon as the murdering beauties were finished gathering their supplies, Denise slammed the trunk shut. Immediately Nick punched her between her baby blues, knocking her to the ground before turning on Wendy.
Struggling with the yellow-haired lady, who, like her partner, was trained in Judo, Nick swapped blows with the tall slender gal and encountered a high degree of skill. Then, recovering, Denise attacked him from behind with a blow to his ribs, bringing him to his knees. Both women struck like tigers from all sides.
Doing his best to avoid their most deadly kicks, Nick used every device not nailed down as a weapon against the feisty felines. First, his leather belt with the sterling silver buckle, then, a stray piece of firewood left behind by the homeowners. Across the parking area, the trio fought. Nick matched his street skills against the trained martial artists as each one fought for their own reasons.
The gallant cop battled for his life and self-respect, while the women fought for control over the detective representing the authority they loathed. Or perhaps, Denise and Wendy’s desire for domination extended to include the entire county, not just the town, thought Nick. Whatever the reason, they’re formidable.
Bruised and bleeding, the women fought until Nick broke Wendy’s arm. Seizing the opportunity to get away, she escaped in her vehicle leaving her comrade helpless and easily overpowered.
“Get off me, you bastard!” Denise screamed as Nick slammed her to the ground, cuffing her.
“You’re under arrest.” Wiping the blood from his lip, he threw her into his vehicle then drove to the local hospital. On the way there, Nick phoned headquarters, “I got one of the blood members. We’re on our way to the ER.”
Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Flagitious-JoAnne-Myers-ebook/dp/B00NOZCUPG/ref=sr_1_2_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1416876867&sr=8-2&keywords=flagitious
You can find JoAnne at:Website http://www.booksandpaintingsbyjoanne.com
Thanks JoAnne, for dropping by and sharing that great marketing tip.Don’t forget to check back next week for another tip or tweak.