Writing a mystery novel plot

The Challenge of Writing an Engaging Mystery Elisabeth Zguta Nov 23, Uncategorized A good mystery engages the reader with a great hook, challenging plot, unique characters, and an atmosphere of suspense, all intertwined with a good structure. The curious reader turns into the investigator and pieces the clues together to unveil the stories behind the characters. Writing a mystery novel is a challenge—layers must lead to a resolution to the primary questions:

Writing a mystery novel plot

I decided it would be useful to have it here as a reference, so here goes. There are many variants on murder mystery plot structures, many of them super-effective both as mysteries and as carrier plots for larger ideas.

The five-act structure is one of my favorites for long mysteries, but P. She has successfully used these plots as a canvas on which to paint her thoughts on class, medicine, aging, religion, and all aspects of human life and death.

Beginner's Novel Writing Tips by The Novel Factory: Mystery Plot Template / Story Beats / Roadmap

The four-act structure is useful in general because it lends itself to relatively tight plotting, even for those of us for whom long-form plotting is not a strong point: James of course used this repeatedly to great effect. For one thing, some of the most successful TBPs are P. Rex Stout, in stories that seem to me to follow this structure uses character interactions to substitute for an inciting incident, and then a super-short fourth act.

plot - Resources on plotting mystery stories - Writing Stack Exchange Rather than dash willy-nilly through a first draft, praying to Edgar Allen Poe that your sleuth can piece together some clues and convincingly prove the butler did it, I suggest making sure you have the right clues to begin with.

The characters are jerked around, have visceral reactions, and usually require a scene or two to regain their bearings. These events determine what comes before and after. One of the ways writing a mystery novel plot these plots differ from others is the sense of anticipation: The reader knows it has to be there, and expects it.

The events occur at the Act boundaries and while they dominate the impact of the story, they are generally only a small portion of the text.

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This is a setting of the stage, and has multiple functions: In a James novel this is usually a series of character sketches and conflicts in which the victim-to-be plays a major role. The murderer should at least be mentioned.

In a Stout novel that follows the TBP, this is usually a different case entirely — a theft, maybe, or blackmail. As expected, someone turns up dead and sets an investigation in motion. They may have been dead for some time, or they may have been preceded in death by another victim, but this is the discovery and the focus.

writing a mystery novel plot

The investigation of the murder gets underway. The story unfolds according to the logic of the investigation, centering primarily on the detectives, and the characters who appeared in Act 1 are seen in a new light. This part of the story is primarily reactive. Procedures are followed more than insight.

The detective is identifying the hurdles that need to be crossed, but not actually crossing very many of them.

Be character driven

Witnesses hold things back, and the reader generally knows it. The reader is more generous with fumbling at this stage. Sometimes the detective is right on the verge of a major discovery at the end of the second act, but… Second Corpse: Someone else turns up dead, very often a prime suspect.

It is this body that makes the plot a Two Body Plot, not just because of cardinality but because it represents a major failure. The detective has been slow and the villain quick.

writing a mystery novel plot

The second corpse may have predeceased the first corpse, but being found second they play a different role in the story. This is the main part of the investigation, in which the detective starts driving the investigation through insight rather than procedure.

The detective is regaining control, and the villain is in reaction mode.

Clues Drive the Mystery Plot - Sandra Parshall

In a TBP, the same person usually is responsible for both corpses; often some paragraph or two is spent explaining why this has to be the case, but sometimes the Two Murderer Theory is explored.

But the reader is less patient with the detective at this stage some readers will have guessed the solution! The detective forms and discards theories, but at the end of the third act must know the identity of the killer but typically not how to prove it.

This paves the way for the… Reveal or Third Corpse: The detective and the killer finally, briefly, clash. In a Stout TBP novel, this is usually a trick played by Wolfe often with Archie in the dark, and always with the reader in the dark and nearly always a confrontation including multiple people and often the police.

A word about the reveal: Just enough time for the reader to be excited and proud of themselves, and not enough time to get bored waiting for the detective to catch up.

That means that while the scene in which the reveal takes place might luxuriate in description or a gloating retelling of events, the reveal itself often needs to be expressed in a very short length of text.

People may still have done suspicious things, and the detective may have acted mysteriously — these explanations come in Act 4.Writing Romance In Your Mystery and Vice Versa.

To determine if your book is a mystery with romance or a romantic suspense, define the main plot and ensure that the majority of scenes are devoted to that story line. Whether you are writing a mystery series with a romance subplot or a romantic suspense series, each book must delve into a.

Mystery Plot Template / Story Beats / Roadmap by Katja Kaine 4 comments In the Novel Factory, we use a Universal Storyline template based on the Hero's Journey, and we've created a few more targeted structure templates for common genres, such as Romance and Mystery.

After taking thoroughly apart the murder mystery The Red House by A. A. Milne (yes, the writer of Winnie the Pooh), Chandler rails against detective stories where the machinations of plot outstrip any semblance of reality.

“If the situation is false, you cannot even accept it as a light novel, for there is no story for the light novel to be. Outlining – Method 1: Basic Story Beats Just as there are many ways to write a novel, there are many ways to outline a novel.

You can use all the methods, one of the methods, or none of the methods. Author Dennis Palumbo takes the mystery out of how to write a mystery with expert tips using examples from excellent mystery films and tv shows.

Dialogue and Plot; Comedy Writing; Directories of Industry Contacts and Publishers; Grammar, Reference and Research Benni Harper, now on her 12th or 13th novel in a hugely successful series.

I. The detective story is a genre of fiction in which a detective, either an amateur or a professional, solves a crime or a series of crimes. With few exceptions, the crime involves one or more murders (occasionally, detective stories may revolve around spectacular thefts or blackmail, but this is rare).

ticket2write - Plotting the Mystery Novel